Undercover operation targets car thieves - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Undercover operation targets car thieves

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A four-month undercover operation in which officers purchased stolen cars, drugs and weapons at various locations throughout San Diego County resulted in the indictment of 31 people, authorities announced Thursday.

"Operation Last Judgment" was launched last December by the Regional Auto Theft Task Force in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the San Diego Police Department's Gang Unit as a response to community concerns over increased auto thefts.

During the investigation, officers from RATT purchased a vehicle that was part of a residential burglary and disrupted a firearms distribution ring. Some car thieves were also involved in identity theft, according to authorities.

Law enforcement officials said a total of 44 people were arrested during the operation, including more than a dozen during early-morning raids Wednesday in San Diego and Riverside counties.

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

"Taking a proactive approach in seeking out the professional auto thief and having aggressive prosecution has had a definite impact within our community," said California Highway Patrol Capt. Scott Parker, RATT commander.

In 2007, there were 27,073 autos stolen in San Diego County, By 2011, that number had dropped 53 percent to 12,638.

The defendants in "Operation Last Judgment" face charges including auto theft, residential burglary and operating a chop shop.

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