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follow-up on car theft in Fresno(1 post)

follow-up on car theft in FresnoDougSloan
Nov 12, 2003 3:54 PM
Car theft rank continues to plague Fresno
By Marc Benjamin
The Fresno Bee
Published 11/12/03 05:55:14

Stories of Fresno auto thieves are the stuff of local criminal legend. There are guys who have been arrested and released on the same day they commit an auto theft only to be found the following day in a stolen car.
Others have been arrested in stolen cars wearing court-ordered ankle monitors, the product of a previous conviction.

"We had one kid we arrested four or five times within a couple months in stolen cars, and we kept arresting him," said Sgt. Shannon Galvan, Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) team supervisor. "We arrested him on his way to court for a hearing in a stolen car for another auto theft charge."

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• See complete auto theft statistics from around the country.

Auto theft has plagued Fresno for a decade. The latest research from the Illinois-based National Insurance Crime Bureau for 2002 made public last month showed that the crime still dogs the city.

Fresno ranked No. 2 in auto theft, trailing only the Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz., area in the report.

But Fresno police are trying to deflect those newly issued figures by pointing to positive strides made during the first nine months of 2003.

In the period ending Sept. 30, Fresno police reported 4,300 stolen vehicles, a pace that would produce 5,733 by the end of the year and would reflect a 20% drop from last year's reported 7,175 stolen vehicles. For the nine-month period ending Sept. 30, auto theft is down by 15.5% compared to the same period last year, according to police figures.

More police on the street and more room in the Fresno County Jail are helping the city get a handle on auto theft, officials say.

And police from the HEAT unit, composed of Fresno police, Fresno County probation and California Highway Patrol officers and Fresno County sheriff's deputies, know about their quarry.

"We can look at a hot sheet of cars stolen and then see who was released from jail," Galvan said. "We know who steals what and who to look for where."

An additional 800 beds, nearly a 33% increase, allows jailers to place auto thieves behind bars instead of having to release them to free space for more dangerous criminals, said Capt. Jose Flores, Fresno County Jail administrator.

"Before, we would just release them if it was just a nonviolent offense," Flores said. "If push came to shove, they would be the first ones pushed out."

Compared with 2002, the average daily population in the jail has increased in the first nine months of 2003 by 34.3%, from 2,220 to 2,982 inmates, according to Fresno County Jail reports.

In addition, the average stay for a Fresno County Jail inmate has risen by more than 34.4%, from 21 days to more than 28 days, according to jail records.

Auto theft arrests by police also increased as new jail space opened up, which kept adult auto thieves off the streets for longer periods.

But juveniles and drug users still loom as the biggest problem.

Dyer cites the continued crowding in Fresno County Juvenile Hall and the Valley's methamphetamine trade as the two prominent reasons for the continued difficulty in dealing with auto thieves.

"There have not been serious consequences for juveniles, and they continue to steal," he said. Methamphetamine users take stolen vehicles to chop shops, he said.

"The other reason is the prevalence of meth in the Valley; meth is more available, and it's cheaper here, and they have to steal to support that habit," Dyer said.

There are so many thefts, the car thieves must be stealing each others' cars! How are they doing this? With all the security built into today's cars, I can't see how, unless they are all older or cheaper cars.