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Johnson: Combat Contraband Smuggling in HiddenVehicle Compartments with Statute

(Trenton) – Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), author of legislation to criminalize the use of hidden vehicle compartments in drug and human trafficking trades, issued the following statement on the State Commission of Investigation July 2013 report on an ongoing probe of illegal trafficking in and abuse of prescription painkillers and other addictive narcotics:

“I applaud the Commission’s hard work on this issue. Uncovering numerous brazen and unbridled drug operations statewide using this method of transport, the Commission’s findings underscores the need for law specifically targeting the purveyors and manufacturers of these modified vehicles.

“From small boxes only large enough to hold an illegal firearm to creating a space in the steering wheel and dashboard for stashing drugs to sizeable hideaways built into commercial vehicles, these compartments are becoming more prevalent and can range from rudimentarily built to a highly sophisticated, James Bond-like contraption.

“These “hides,” “traps,” or “vaults,” are designed to avoid detection by authorities, including police dogs, when searched. If found, law enforcement should be able to take the necessary action to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

“For the deviants who design these compartments, for those who use them for illegal purposes and proliferating illegal trade in this manner, there should be additional consequences. New Jersey would become one of only six states to take action on this issue.”

Johnson proposed legislation (A-1675) in 2012 that would make it a crime for a person to possess, design or assemble a “false” or secret compartment in a motor vehicle with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle or transport a person, controlled dangerous substance, firearm, weapon or other contraband. These secret compartments have grown in popularity amongst narcotics dealers and traffickers in the state as well as across the nation.

Currently, three other states- Delaware, Pennsylvania and Iowa- have proposed legislation to ban the design and use of vehicle compartments to illegally transport. According to the National Conference of Legislatures, the states of California, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Utah currently ban these concealed compartments.