Public Safety

Dozens Indicted in Auto Theft Operation

A four-month undercover operation targeting auto thefts has resulted in 31 grand jury indictments, the District Attorney’s Office announced today.

A four-month undercover operation targeting auto thefts has resulted in 31 grand jury indictments, the District Attorney’s Office announced today.

The Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT) conducted the operation working with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the San Diego Police Department’s Gang Unit. The defendants face various felony charges including vehicle theft, residential burglary, operating a chop shop, possession of stolen property and illegal weapons possession.

“San Diego County ranks fifteenth in the nation for auto theft – a huge improvement from 2007 when we were third nationwide,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “This proves why the continued hard work by RATT is so important.”

Operation Last Judgment was launched in December 2011 in part as a response to community concern over increased auto theft. During the course of investigating these auto theft crimes, some narcotics were also seized. Law enforcement officers from RATT purchased a vehicle that was part of a residential burglary and disrupted a distribution of firearms ring. Some identified car thieves were also involved in identity theft. That case was turned over to the U.S. Postal inspectors for further investigation.

During the crackdown, undercover officers purchased stolen cars, drugs and weapons at locations throughout San Diego County. The National Insurance Crime Bureau and Safeco Insurance provided support to the task force throughout this operation.

Of the 31 indicted, 24 are in police custody. There were 44 total arrests made during this operation including more than a dozen during yesterday’s early-morning sweep in San Diego and Riverside counties. Suspects in this investigation face varied sentences depending on their criminal background including probation to 25 years in prison.

Evidence seized during the operation includes 84 stolen cars valued at $540,000, 17 firearms and a miscellaneous amount of narcotics.

“Taking a pro-active approach in seeking out the professional auto thief and having aggressive prosecution has had a definite impact within our community” said Scott Parker, RATT Commander and CHP Captain. In 2007, there were 27,073 autos stolen in San Diego County. By 2011, that number dropped 53% to 12,638.

The mission of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force is to collaborate effectively to reduce vehicle theft and increase arrests of professional thieves. The County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department and Probation Deparment are among the member agencies.