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Senate approves Runestad bill to curb car thefts, expand burglary equipment statute to include newer technology

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday passed Sen. Jim Runestad’s legislation to crack down on the upward trend of automobile theft in Michigan.

“As car-locking technology evolves, criminals are finding new tools to get away with vehicles that aren’t theirs. This bill will give our law enforcement agencies and prosecutors a new tool to bring these thieves to justice and deter a growing and alarming trend,” said Runestad, R-White Lake.

“I have learned from law enforcement that the concerning increase of car thefts in Southeast Michigan and across the state is directly linked to handheld computer devices used for automotive key programming and diagnostics. These tools are helpful in the hands of locksmiths and auto mechanics, but criminals are taking advantage of this technology at a disturbing rate.”

Senate Bill 870 would add computers or other technology that allow an individual to program a key code for a motor vehicle to the state’s burglary equipment statute, which prescribes a felony offense for individuals found to be in possession of the equipment with the intention to commit theft.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s office reports that automobile thefts have increased 66.7% and possession of a motor vehicle as stolen property increased 138% from 2020 to 2021.

Law enforcement groups, including the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, Police Officers Association of Michigan, Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and Michigan Manufacturers Association have voiced their support for the SB 870.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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