San Diego County District attorney said 44 arrests have been made across the county recently, the result of a four month undercover operation targeting car thieves. 


“Thieves were breaking into homes, stealing car keys and coming back later to steal the car,” said Dumanis.  “Thanks to this operation we were able to stop these crooks.”


The thieves she said would then try to sell the stolen cars to undercover officers.

Dumanis said 31 defendants had already been indicted by the grand jury.  Their charges include auto theft and possession of a stolen vehicle.


“In one brazen case, a woman watched her car drive away after leaving it unattended for a few seconds,” Dumanis said.  “She ran inside for a cup of coffee.”


Authorities said the thieves took 84 cars worth more than a half a million dollars. Every vehicle has been returned to its owner.  Law enforcement also recovered drugs and firearms during the arrests.


“Seventeen dangerous weapons were taken out of hands of criminals,” said Scott Parker with the San Diego Regional Auto Theft Task Force which conducted the operation with the help of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the San Diego Police Department’s gang unit.


Authorities said auto thefts are down in San Diego. The county currently ranks fifteenth in the nation for car thefts.  In 2007, the county ranked third.


“I can tell you today that the San Diego Regional Auto Theft Task Force will continue to work hard to make sure that auto theft stays on the decline,” said Parker.


Some of the defendants will be arraigned in San Diego Superior Court on Friday, the others on Tuesday.  They face anywhere from probation to 25 years if convicted.