Would mandatory jail time for car thieves help Anchorage? Lawmakers say yes

Published: Dec. 19, 2018 at 10:56 AM AKST
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In the wake of some of the worst car theft numbers in Anchorage history, lawmakers have introduced a bill designed to deter would-be car thieves with a mandatory punishment: jail time.

If it passes, the legislation would put a mandatory minimum on car theft sentences, including jail time of at least 120 days for stealing a vehicle, with "lengthier sentences for aggravating factors," according to representatives.

The bill, which was pre-filed ahead of the Legislative session, was proposed by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers, including Representative-elect Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.

According to data issued by the Anchorage Police Department, in Anchorage in 2016, there were 2,100 stolen vehicle reports. In 2017, there were 3,184. As of July, the latest date that APD had records available for 2018, there were 2,265.

Renee Oistad, an APD spokesperson, said that updated data would be available for 2018 sometime in the new year.

In statements issued along with the release detailing the new bill, lawmakers made their cases for why the bill should pass, and how it will help victims of car theft.

“It’s undeniable that Alaskans have seen a dramatic increase in vehicle theft. I am convinced that imposing mandatory minimum sentences will serve as a deterrent and an effective form of punishment for this type of criminality,” said Rep. Josephson.

“One of my neighbor’s car was stolen by a guy who has stolen multiple cars. Having a vehicle stolen can lead to missed work, lost wages, missed medical appointments, and other fees and expenses. Even when vehicles are returned, they are often full of needles and drug paraphernalia that make it feel like a toxic waste site. This is costly and disruptive and must stop,” said Rep. Tarr.

“By changing the law to strengthen penalties we will send a clear message that this kind of lawless behavior will not be tolerated,” said Rep. LeDoux.

“I've talked to far too many of my neighbors who have had their cars stolen, in some cases multiple times. Police officers in my district suggested establishing stronger penalties for vehicle theft, and I'm honored to introduce this bill that will support law enforcement,” said Rep.-elect Fields.