Top 5 auto thief arrested, Fresno police say

FRESNO, Calif.

35-year-old Rodney Jones has been on the list of top five auto thieves in Fresno for more than three months.

Auto thieves don't typically stay in the jail for long, though.

Even Jones was arrested and released five times just last year.

But police say Monday's arrest could stop five cars from being stolen Monday night.

Rodney Jones needed no shaved key for this ride.

His reign as one of Fresno's top five car thieves ended Monday when police loaded him onto a paddy wagon for a trip to the county jail.

A tip led the Career Criminal Auto Theft team to a Parkway motel where they found Jones.

Inside his room, tools of the trade: various keys, gloves, bent screwdrivers, as well as meth pipes.

Investigators say the drug habit is what really drives Jones.

"He has a serious meth habit," said CCAT Sgt. Timothy Tietjen. "He's going to receive meth or cash for that car. He might spend $150 -- that's what they'll give him for that car."

Officers arrested Jones five times last year, but he was released each time.

It's a familiar situation for Fresno auto theft investigators.

They've arrested 47 suspects in the last few weeks. Only six are still in jail.

Among those released was Christina Gonzalez, another member of the top five auto thieves.

"It really is frustrating," said auto theft victim Anita Fernandez Y"ou feel like there's no justice at all. What's the point?"

Fernandez is one of the lucky victims, but one who'd rather not show her face.

Police returned her Saturn five days after someone stole it last month.

Her ignition is ruined and her engine is burned out, leaving basically a shell of a car.

But Fresno police say they are making an impact.

Auto thefts are down 150 this year compared to last year.

They say Jones alone could steal five a night.

And at least for one night, he won't be able to steal any.

"We know we're fighting an uphill battle and we just hope they can keep them in as long as possible," said Sgt. Tietjen.

Action News has kept an eye on the jail here all day.

More than 25 people have been released for overcrowding.

As of 5 p.m., Jones was still locked up.

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