New Mexico’s auto theft problem is well-known. Since 2016, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has ranked, per capita, number one on the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s annual Hot Spots vehicle theft report. And according to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, New Mexico’s 2018 auto theft rate per capita is around double that of Arizona and Texas, the two states that border both New Mexico and Mexico.
However, through a combination of improved policing, prosecuting practices, and legislative efforts, including the recent creation of a state automobile theft prevention authority, New Mexico has made significant progress. From just 2017 to 2018, the Albuquerque MSA realized a reduction of nearly 3,000 stolen vehicles. Yet more is still needed to put New Mexico auto theft rates on par with the rest of the country.
New Mexico House Bill 156, sponsored by Representatives Abbas Akhil and Joy Garratt, if passed, will be one more important tool law enforcement will have to combat vehicle thefts.
It seeks to create the crime of illegally dismantling stolen vehicles, which includes knowingly operating, what is known as a chop shop, transporting vehicles or parts to or from a chop shop, and selling or purchasing vehicles or parts to or from a chop shop. These chop shops rely on a steady supply of stolen vehicles so the parts can be sold or used to repair or conceal other stolen vehicles.
Christopher Ware, a New Mexico-based Special Agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and former New Mexico State Police sergeant, says this legislation is necessary: “These chop shops are often operated by sophisticated organized crime rings. Law enforcement needs the right criminal statutes to deter and prosecute these thieves and dry up demand for stolen vehicles.”
The New Mexico legislature is currently in session for a short 30 days, primarily to address budget issues. However, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has exercised her constitutional authority by issuing a house executive message authorizing the legislature to address this non-budget, chop shop legislation.
This legislation is a top priority for NICB Government Affairs and will be strongly advocating for its passage. For more information, please contact NICB’s government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.