Chop Shop Raid

6/06/2010

Chop Shop Raid

LONG BEACH Teams of police officers clad in raid gear and armed with picks and rams swept through the city early Wednesday serving warrants at four suspected backyard chop shops. The sweep resulted in the arrest of six adults and the seizure of six vehicles allegedly built with parts pilfered from at least 11 cars stolen from communities including Long Beach, Garden Grove, Norwalk, Seal Beach and Westminster. While crime statistics have steadily dropped over the past several years in Long Beach, auto thefts continue to dog local law enforcement and communities throughout California. “Auto thefts have been a problem in the city in general; this group focuses on Hondas and Acuras which they use for street races,” said Long Beach police Lt. Paul Arcala, who oversees the Property Crimes Unit. The warrants served Wednesday were the result of months of investigation by Long Beach Police Department Auto Theft detectives, led by Detective Vincent Otto after he conducted arrests and a search at a chop shop on Silva Street in North Long Beach about five months ago, said Arcala said. That bust also marked the 400th hit in Southern California on a chop shop for LoJack since the security company began doing business with local law enforcement more than 20 years ago. “It was a LoJack activation that led to a local chop shop last year, which led to other shops in the area, and basically a Pandora’s box was opened,” said Ira Beaty, a retired LAPD officer and law enforcement liaison for LoJack. Officers on the operation included Long Beach Auto Theft Detail detectives, Directed Enforcement Teams from the North and West Divisions and gang detectives. Also involved were four investigators who serve on the multiagency TRAP unit, or Task Force for Regional Auto Theft Prevention. Among the TRAP investigators was LBPD Auto Theft Detective Mark Mattia, who specializes in tracking thieves who steal and strip down small Japanese cars favored by street racers. If you have a Honda or Acura, especially those built from 1996 to 2006, the parts are interchangeable and therefore highly desirable on the black market, Mattia explained. It takes mere minutes for would be thieves to break in and start a motor without a key. It doesn’t take much longer for them to pry a motor out, he said. Also, cars made during that time period were not equipped with today’s high tech transponders and immobilizers, which were invented by European car companies to thwart car thieves and eventually adopted by most North American and Asian car companies, said Long Beach Auto Theft Detail Detective Jimmy Williams. Once the cars are stolen and deposited in a chop shop the thieves communicate online with a network of racers who are regularly looking for replacement parts, Arcala said. Almost every cheap jerseys car seized Wednesday advertised race groups with bumper stickers and logos plastered on windows. People involved in the race culture can use other signs to signal to drivers on the road that they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice, including attaching small stuffed animals to their bumper, Mattia said. At least one of the cars, a late ’90s model Acura Integra, had a special tow hook painted optic blue on the rear end of the car which is used to pull the vehicle into place at a starting line, he said. But despite all that attention to detail, other aesthetic issues, like matching paint, didn’t seem to be a priority. “To you http://www.cheapjerseys11.com/ and me they look really junky, but these guys just go nuts,” Mattia laughed. Junk was a good word to describe the state of not only the cars but most of the home yards where the vehicles get stripped. At three of the four locations front and back lawns were covered in trash, including stacks of tires, engine blocks, exhaust systems and spare hoods, doors and lights. Only one house, at Country Club Drive and Pacific Avenue, contained its stash to inside the garage. Almost all identification numbers where scratched off the hundreds of auto parts taken into custody. Some of the vehicles no longer had their vehicle identification numbers. “I can’t say for certain that these cars were stolen, but you can bet the parts are,” Mattia said gesturing to three vehicles found at the Gardenia chop shop. Williams said all the cars taken into custody appear to be salvage vehicles that were purchased by racers. Detectives, however, logged parts stolen from at least 11 other vehicles on the six cars. And the half dozen suspects taken into custody are suspected of being responsible for a much larger number of crimes, Williams said. “Our enforcement impacted not only victims in Long Beach, but from all over South Los Angeles and North Orange (counties),” said Long Beach Auto Theft Detail Detective Jimmy Williams. “It’s pretty traumatic for people to get their vehicle stolen,” Williams added. Car thieves are talented, they usually specialize in certain makes and models, and they can break into and take a vehicle within minutes. There are a few things, however, that vehicle owners can do to protect themselves, according to the Long Beach Police Department: Always lock your doors and keep valuable items, like spare change, CDs, laptops and cell phones out of view. Visual deterrents, such as The Club, make some thieves think twice before bothering to break into your car. Kill switches are very useful in older vehicles that are not equipped with internal computers to sense when the ignition system has been bypassed. They are also cheap and easy to install, costing about $3 in parts and $35 in labor. And car alarms, particularly those that offer warning systems linked to a key fob or that notify an owner via text, phone call or e mail when a car has been taken, can be especially effective, police said. Most recovered vehicles stolen with LoJack’s Advance Warning System are found within two hours, said LoJack spokesman Ira Beaty. Tracy Manzer.