Early Jail Releases Blamed for Rise in Auto Theft

FRESNO, Calif. The Fresno Police Chief is trying to work out a deal with the Sheriff to prioritize inmates. It's a way to keep those repeat offenders in jail longer.

The Chief said there's a direct correlation between the one thousand early releases and car theft rates.

A Northwest Fresno neighborhood off of Emerson and West is being hit hardest -- auto theft is up 65% in the area of the city.

Adam Morales just got his stolen Honda Civic back Wednesday. It was ripped off almost a week ago from in front of his home.

Morales said, "I was pretty mad. I mean we drove around for a while trying to look for it. We couldn't find it."

Fresno Police /*Chief Jerry Dyer*/ said the recent spike in theft goes hand in hand with the number of inmates walking out of jail early. Detectives have narrowed down the hottest times and days.

"The peak hours are around 8p.m. to midnight and Friday night seems to be the night most cars are stolen," said Chief Dyer.

Officers said a select few are responsible for a large majority of the cars stolen in Fresno. 19-year-old Oudara Chounramany has been arrested five times in as many weeks for grand theft auto. He was released early four of those times.

"He's believed to be responsible for stealing between 12 to 15 cars a week. That one individual is probably for 10% of our car thefts in the entire city," said Chief Dyer.

Last year 87 cars were stolen in Northwest Fresno at the same time -- it compares to 144 this year. That's a 65% jump. In Northeast Fresno 77 were stolen last year -- to 107 this year. That's up 39%.

Unfortunately, no fingerprints were left on the civic -- Morales assumes the thief used an altered key to get into his car. He's now taking steps to do everything he can to avoid being a victim again.

Morales said, "From now on full coverage on all my cars. Alarms, whatever I have to do. I'm going to fence off my front yard and park behind the fence."

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