Fresno, California - Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer praised his officers last week for bringing down the number of stolen cars to a level he hasn't seen in decades. Fresno police leaders hope it will begin to impact gangs. Investigators say stolen cars are a key tool being used by gangs to carryout shootings and robberies in the city. This is why officers say it's so important to make preventing auto theft a priority.
Having your car stolen from a parking lot is a terrible feeling, but imagine if you found out it was used in a drive by shooting to hurt people? Well, that's exactly what experts say is happening.
Verified gang members in stolen cars, some are using shaved keys. These are some of the gang members and stolen vehicles the Fresno Police Department has come across in the last month and a half. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says a stolen vehicle in the hands of a gang member is a serious concern.
"60% of the individuals who steal a car in our city are people who are involved in violent crime," said Chief Dyer.
In 2017 the number of stolen vehicles in Fresno was down 15-percent.
"We know when we get those cars off the street, those individuals off the street we've likely prevented a drive by shooting or a robbery from happening in our city," said Chief Dyer.
Longtime criminal defense attorney David Mugridge agrees.
"I mean there is no question the shootings have a correlation to the auto thefts 48:00> 38:47 "it's much more difficult obviously for the police to catch the people responsible if they are using a stolen car. They can just dump the car somewhere if they like," said Mugridge.
The Fresno Police Department pays for five jail beds to keep the most prolific car thieves off the street. Meanwhile, in the courtroom prosecutors are doing their best to lock up gang members arrested for stealing cars.
"If you happen to have been a repeat offender we can increase or enhance your sentence if you are convicted of a crime like auto theft," said Mugridge.
Chief Dyer has set a goal of a 20 percent reduction in shootings in Fresno in 2018. Keeping stolen cars out of the hands of gang members will be an important part of achieving that goal.