New bill would increase penalties for owners of illegal chop shops

Politics - Government

Lawmakers are trying to crack down on one of the state’s most notorious problems: car theft. This time, they’re going after some of the people who buy stolen cars from the thieves: the chop shops.

Police and lawmakers said chop shops are a huge problem, and now they’re pushing for a bill to push back on this problem.

“This sends a clear message that we’re serious about this,” said Rep. Abbas Akhil, (D) Albuquerque. “We will prosecute, these are felony statuses and you better think twice about it. The police are doing their part by putting out bait cars, and this just gives them more power and more help in doing the job.”

Rep. Akhil is one of House Bill 509’s many sponsors. The bill would make it a crime to own and operate a chop shop, a place where stolen cars are dismantled and the parts sold off. Even police said this bill would mean more charges and more prison time for chop shop owners.

“Basically now when we find a stolen vehicle in a chop shop, which is receiving and transferring a stolen vehicle, we don’t have that statute in the books to where we could charge somebody who has 15 stolen vehicles on their property as a chop shop,” said Albuquerque Police spokesperson Simon Drobik.

Albuquerque Police said neighboring states have chop shop laws and claim that they help them prosecute offenders.

Lawmakers said this will target not only the chop shop owners, but also the people who bring those stolen cars to chop shops.

Chop shop crimes would be third and fourth degree felonies. The bill is still sitting in its first Senate committee.

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