Prolific auto theft suspects released from Fresno jail

FRESNO, Calif.

The two suspects are among 65 people released from the Fresno County Jail in the last 48 hours, because of overcrowding.

The jail essentially has a revolving door for auto thieves because their crime isn't violent and the sheriff is releasing nearly every non-violent criminal because of overcrowding.

But police say, just going to jail, could disrupt a criminal's mindset.

Fresno Police say Robert Wollert was carrying the tools of the trade when they caught him looking for cars to steal in the neighborhood around 7th and McKinley.

Investigators say after his arrest, Wollert confessed to stealing more than 1,000 cars in a matter of months.

But just a few hours after they announced his arrest, Wollert got out of the County Jail.

"It's always disheartening when an individual you put a lot of time and effort into getting off the streets is released back onto the streets and committing other crimes,: said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Police say Tino Tufono is one of Wollert's partners in crime.

He was also released from jail after officers arrested him.

Investigators say they're some of the most prolific car thieves in Fresno, responsible for a big chunk of a crime that's drastically increased since jail releases for overcrowding started.

So far this year, there have been 2257 auto thefts reported. That's up 76% in two years.

Chief Dyer says auto thieves who've been arrested, but got out of jail, are a big part of the problem. "During that time when they're out in the community, they're wreaking havoc," Dyer said. "They're stealing a lot of cars."

Dyer says police need to be creative to solve the problem.

Action News was there last month during a special operation to round up auto theft suspects and get them in front of a judge before they got released.

One auto theft victim who didn't want to be identified got his car back when police busted a chop shop.

He says time is of the essence as police track down the thieves, and the cars.

"I'm surprised they found my car so fast," he said. "My brother's car got stolen and they didn't find it until a week after and by then, it's too late. The car's already stripped out and everything's gone off of it."

Dyer is also considering the possibility of paying Madera County to hold the worst thieves and burglars.

That way, they'd stay in jail until at least their first court dates.

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