Alarmed at its ranking as San Diego’s hot spot for auto thefts, officers at the city’s southern division developed a strategy to crackdown on the thieves, targeting every facet of the crime. Five years later, says the San Diego Union-Tribune, the multipronged approach seems to have worked, with a 65 percent decrease in auto thefts in San Diego's border neighborhoods — from 2,233 thefts in fiscal 2007 to 771 thefts in fiscal 2011. “No one wants to live in a city where every time you park your car, you wonder if it will be there when you get back,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders.
The No. 1 reason for stealing cars was for the parts, said Capt. Miguel Rosario. They found thieves were also using the swiped vehicles in cross-border smuggling operations, were selling them locally and abroad, and using them as free transportation while committing other crimes. Insurance fraud also accounted for a high number of the thefts, a problem largely solved when officers started taking all stolen vehicle reports in person, rather than over the phone. The two-person unit then identified the known car thieves in the area, became familiar with their tactics, and monitored them during regular probation and parole searches. “They want to point the finger away from them, so they gave us crucial information as to mode of operations and other suspects involved,” Rosario said. “As you can imagine, that helped us tremendously.”