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County lawmaker seeks increased punishment for car break-ins


Erie County Legislator Peter Savage is seeking tougher penalties for breaking into motor vehicles. The criminal act, known also as "car popping," generally results in misdemeanor larceny charges.

Erie County Legislator Peter Savage is introducing a resolution asking the state to expand its definition of burglary to include "car-popping." Savage said under current New York law the value of stolen property needs to exceed $1,000 for the charges to rise above misdemeanor.

"What I heard from a lot of people all across Erie County is that it's not necessarily the value of the property that is stolen that causes the disruption," Savage said. 

"It's the...feeling violated, that your car was broken into, perhaps, right in your own driveway or parked in front of your house. It's the inconvenience and the costs associated with getting windows replaced. Insurance premiums go up."

Savage said increasing the crime to a felony would help deter repeat offenders. Over the past two years in Buffalo there were nearly 150 arrests for "car popping." Of those arrested, 25 percent were repeat offenders.

"Some individuals were arrested seven, eight times. Although they're difficult cases to prove, the bigger issue seems to be that when they are charged, because the charges are so minor they tend to be resolved fairly quickly through the criminal justice system," Savage said.

"Unfortunately they're back on the street doing the same thing over and over again."

According to Savage, State Senator Tim Kennedy has already expressed interest in advancing the issue in Albany.