State will be looking at how stolen car suspects are criminally charged amid skyrocketing thefts

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Gov. Kathy Hochul came to town Friday armed with a plan she hopes will help lower the skyrocketing number of car thefts in our community.

It starts with sending a letter to 440,000 New Yorkers who own Kias and Hyundais, telling them to go to the dealership to get the security fix.

The governor’s plan also includes millions of dollars in funding to help find the people responsible and retrieve the cars they took.

News10NBC investigative reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke directly with Hochul Friday about the plan.

Our local police agencies will get $5 million to buy new mapping, drone, and data services to continue to ramp up enforcement in the areas that have been hardest hit with car thefts. There’s been a 345 percent increase in stolen cars this year compared to last statewide.

The governor is also promising cash to expand a program that supports young people who are arrested for these crimes and she’s adding state police to more details targeting car thieves.

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: Some people might see it and say, it all sounds great if we started it six to eight months ago during the surge of these car thefts.

Kathy Hochul, governor: “It had been glaring to us that we needed to put together a thoughtful plan. It wasn’t just show up months ago and say, we should do something. It is being a well-thought out plan that actually we believe will result in tangible change and so that’s what we’re focused on.”

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “One thing we have heard from many of the people who were in uniform with you here today is that so many of these folks get an appearance ticket, they get out, they do it again. They get an appearance ticket, they get out, they do it again. So, are there any legislative changes that you’re considering for this problem?”

Hochul deferred that part of the question to her deputy secretary for public safety, Marcos Soler.

“We are going to be meeting next week to continue the conversation of how they could be charging cases differently. It’s our position that they could be charged differently,” he said.

“There are 13- and 14-year-olds living in every corner of this state so what Marcos is talking about is making sure that all the tools available in charging, and the charging documents from the [district attorney’s] office, that they’re following all the avenues they have available to them,” Hochul added.

The governor did praise the youth diversion program that was started here in Monroe County back in May. It holds juveniles in detention while trying to assess their needs, the reasons they may be stealing cars, and connect them with services that might help prevent them from doing it again.

“You already have good programs in place, but giving them the ability to expand even more, to touch more young people because they’re seeing great success,” Hochul said.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said so far there has been a 5 percent recidivism rate among the teens who have been through the diversion program compared to a 35 percent rate before it started.