As a result of “Operation Hotel California,” a six-month-long investigation, the San Diego County Grand Jury has indicted 51 defendants on charges of auto theft, selling stolen vehicles, sale of controlled substances, carjacking, residential burglary, and identity theft.
The operation allowed the Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT) and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to join forces in response to community concern over increased auto theft. Evidence seized included 46 stolen cars and drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, Oxycontin, and heroin.
Although auto thieves were the primary target, RATT officers also solved cases of carjacking, illegal distribution of guns, a residential burglary, and identity theft.
“San Diego ranks fourth in the nation for auto theft, which is why the ongoing work by this task force is so important,” said district attorney Bonnie Dumanis in a press release.
“After reports that car thieves were targeting areas in and around military housing, NCIS (which contributed funding and personnel to the operation) felt it was important to get involved,” said special agent-in-charge Jeffrey Morrow. “The operation was carried out near Navy housing in an effort to reduce crime in areas where Navy personnel and their families live and work.”
In 2005, 27,767 vehicles were stolen in San Diego County. By 2008, that number dropped to 21,863. The theft rate for 2009 was less than 16,000 vehicles, a reduction of more than 40 percent during the past four years.