Police say auto theft is on the rise in Selma

FRESNO, Calif.

An anti-auto theft operation landed two car theft suspects in jail and returned five cars to their owners in the past three days.

A Selma police officer worked to collect evidence from a stolen pick-up truck. Police say this truck was abandoned in front of a home Wednesday afternoon.

The truck, which was reported stolen from Selma in the morning, was ditched in front of Maria Hernandez's house.

The suspected thief ran away before police arrived on the scene. But, Selma police detective Joshua Johnson says just recovering the stolen car is a good thing. In the last month and half he says about one car is stolen in Selma every day.

"We hope to just continue to combat the situation, and let these people know that we're out there and we are doing what we can. We are looking for them," Det. Johnson said.

Selma police asked for help from the local car theft task force – the HEAT team.

On Monday and Tuesday they arrested two suspected auto thieves during their operation.

34-year-old Daniel Rodriguez was arrested on a no bail warrant for drug charges. Police say he's a convicted auto thief, and they found a stolen car on his property.

Rodriguez was arrested near his house Tuesday. Police say he led them on a short chase -- after he spotted officers at his home and ran from them.

"I think a lot of these people are in fact repeat offenders," Johnson said.

Detective Johnson says 40-year-old Gabriel Cantu was found driving a stolen car. They say he had been released from jail early due to overcrowding several days before. That arrest was also for auto theft.

"The officers are doing all this work, they put them in jail and get out the next day or maybe a couple days later, their work it seems like is for nothing," said concerned Selma resident, Maria Hernandez.

Law enforcement is hoping that changes. CHP Sgt. Lenny Sherman, with the Fresno HEAT team, says he's getting more help with staffing and prosecution.

"More resources to Fresno HEAT, but also some dedicated jail bed space for repeat vehicle theft offenders, that's 100 percent from Margaret Mims. Now we also have the addition of a district attorney dedicated to Fresno HEAT," Sherman said.

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