Crimetracker Shows Auto Theft Trend

March 12, 2009 6:11:38 PM PDT
The Action News Crimetracker has spotted a disturbing crime trend in Northeast Fresno. Fresno Police expected property crimes to rise during the recession, but so far this year, it's been mostly the opposite. Property crimes have actually fallen 11%. But the Action News Crimetracker found that over the last month, auto thefts are up by more than 40% in Northeast Fresno and now police are trying to reverse that trend.Police call the area a 'target-rich environment for would-be auto thieves. Hundreds of cars are parked in the neighborhood of Sierra Madre and Jackson, and residents like Melissa Campilli are constantly concerned that their cars could disappear. "A little sketchy of a neighborhood, I've heard," she said. "I think maybe because people are at State, they think there's a lot of cars coming in and a lot of people who don't have alarms."

Over the last several weeks, their fears are well founded. The Action News Crimetracker shows an auto theft trend in an obvious pattern. Auto thefts are down in the city this year, but the red dots on our Crimetracker show there were still 359 in a five-week period. 78 of them happened in northeast Fresno and you can see where the thieves are really targeting -- along a sideways 'T' with Blackstone and Shaw as the arms of the 'T'. Overall, that's a 47% increase over the same time frame last year.

"Thereare a lot of vehicles that park in those areas," said Deputy Chief of Police Robert Nevarez. "More importantly, to the criminal mind, they're unattended vehicles, so they're easy targets." Fresno police are concerned that the short-term trend will turn into a long-term problem. They're organizing a major operation to stop auto thefts and although they're keeping most of the details a secret, they outlined their basic plans for action news. "I can tell you it's going to be a combination of both uniformed officers along with probation and parole officers and also some undercover operations in that same area, trying to catch people in the act of committing crimes," said Nevarez.

Along with combing the streets, officers will be checking chop shops and pawn shops to catch the thieves.

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