Runestad bill to crack down on auto theft tech gets green light from Senate panel


LANSING, Mich. – The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved Sen. Jim Runestad’s legislation to combat growing auto theft trends in Michigan.

“I have learned from law enforcement that there has been a disturbing increase in auto thefts in Southeast Michigan and throughout the state – they indicate that portable computing devices used for programming and automotive key diagnostics are a major contributor to this unfortunate and growing trend,” says Runestad, R-White Lake. “These tools are useful for locksmiths and auto mechanics, but criminals are taking advantage of this technology at an alarming rate. My bill will give prosecutors and law enforcement officers the tool they need to charge those who take advantage of this technology to commit crimes.

Senate Bill 870 would add computers or other technology that allows an individual to program a key code for a motor vehicle to the state’s Burglary Equipment Act, which mandates a criminal offense for persons found in possession of the equipment with intent to commit theft.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office reports that auto theft has increased 66.7% and possession of a motor vehicle as stolen property has increased 138% from 2020 to 2021.

“The increase in the use of portable computing devices – professional pads – used for reprogramming automotive keys has been a major contributor to thefts,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard. “Thieves can reprogram key fobs in minutes and drive off with the vehicle. Most aren’t noticed to be stolen until hours or days later. A stiffer penalty would hopefully deter most thieves.” to use this technology.

“With professional pads used in approximately 90% of Oakland County auto thefts, auto theft detectives have attempted to bring car thieves into possession of the professional pads charged with possession of burglary tools, but without hit. Detectives have been told by the prosecutor’s office that case law needs to be drafted that lists professional tampons as tools of burglary. If the wording does not currently exist in the bill qualifying them as tools of burglary, we support the addition of that wording. Oakland County auto theft detectives have recovered approximately 10 professional stamps over the past year.

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 expressed their support for the bill.

SB 870 now travels to the entire Senate for consideration.



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