SAN DIEGO (CN) – San Diego police and sheriff’s officers arrested 32 suspected car thieves Wednesday and are looking for 10 more who escaped an early morning sweep.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced the 42 indictments Thursday, and said 117 stolen cars valued at $1.3 million were seized, along with 51 guns, 5½ lbs. of methamphetamine, 3 kilograms of cocaine and 15 lbs. of marijuana.
The arrests came after a 10-month undercover operation in which officers bought stolen cars directly from the defendants, some of whom were also involved in identity theft and insurance fraud, the district attorney said in a statement.
At its worst, around 1990, as many as 40,000 vehicles were stolen in and around San Diego each year, district attorney spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said in an email. That number has been reduced to about 10,000 thefts a year: still 27 a day.
The city now ranks 15th in the nation for auto theft – bad as it is, an improvement from the No. 3 spot it held in 2007.
Seven of the 10 worst U.S. cities for car theft are in California, including the very worst, San Francisco-Oakland and Hayward, which reported 29,093 stolen cars in 2014.
If convicted, the defendants face sentences ranging from 3 to 25 years in prison.
Many of the defendants were to be arraigned Friday in Superior Court.