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Editorial: Scrap yard bill a new tool

If you haven’t heard the news about the auto theft epidemic in the Albuquerque metro area, you must be living in Siberia. Just check out the police briefs in the morning paper or online throughout the day at

Brazen thieves are out in the dead of night, in the early morning as people are going to work and in the middle of the day. Criminals steal cars to feed a drug habit, to take a joy ride, or to strip them of parts to sell – whatever the reason, in many cases when vehicles are found, they are likely trashed.

In 2015, more than 5,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque, giving us the second-highest car theft rate in the nation, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Albuquerque Police Department statistics showed that auto theft that year was the highest since 2006, up about 45 percent from the previous year’s total of 3,558. In unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County, according to statistics from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the number of auto thefts more than doubled from 2014 to 2015, from 230 to 477. And in 2016 there were 638 reported vehicle thefts in the unincorporated county alone.

A bipartisan effort in Santa Fe is stepping up to help law enforcement deal with the problem. Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and Reps. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, and Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque, are sponsoring identical bills, Senate Bill 139 and House Bill 177, that would require the state Motor Vehicle Division to create and maintain a database listing all stolen vehicles. Salvage companies would be required to check with the state to determine whether a vehicle had been reported stolen before purchasing it and also to report any purchases of motor vehicles to the MVD within two days of a transaction. Law enforcement agencies also would be able to access the database.

Morales says he doesn’t think the bill would be a financial burden for the state, and he says it has worked in other states.

Lawmakers should pass this common-sense legislation because it would add another tool to law enforcement’s crime-stopping kit.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.