By Gretchen Schuldt
A bill that would increase penalties for carjacking and make it a crime unto itself won support last week from police and insurance organizations.
"We can all agree that a suspect stealing an unoccupied vehicle parked on the side of the road, while wrong, is far less concerning than a suspect pointing a gun at someone commuting to their job and forcing them out of their vehicle to steal it," said Mark Sette, vice president of the Wisconsin State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Sette gave testimony during a public hearing on the bill held before the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The Republican-backed bill would increase the penalty for carjacking by 20 years, from 40 years to 60 years. The bill also would create a separate carjacking offense, something Sette said would "assist the public and the criminal justice system in identifying the true scope of the problem, properly classify these offenses as the violent crimes that they are."
Howard Handler, senior director for strategy, policy and government affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said 930,000 vehicles were stolen nationwide in 2021, up 17% from the 2019 figure.
"In 2021, Wisconsin experienced a 75 percent increase in stolen vehicles compared to 2019," he said in prepared testimony.
"Beyond the loss to an owner and the resulting financial impacts — including in the form of higher insurance premiums for Wisconsin consumers — vehicle thefts often have serious second-order effects on society," he said. Criminal rings are stealing more cars "as an alternative revenue stream as well as to commit other violent crimes."
The Milwaukee Police Association also testified in favor of the bill.
The Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association and the Fraternal Order of Police registered in favor of the bill. No organization registered in opposition.
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