An eight-month undercover operation has put dozens of alleged car thieves out of business in North County.
"Operation Gangbusters" is another concerted crackdown by multiple San Diego law enforcement agencies on those who might steal your car.
Members of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) sprang into action on Wednesday arresting 34 suspected car thieves.
A dozen guns, illegal drugs, and 38 stolen vehicles, valued at more than $304,000, were seized during the operation. The suspects allegedly sold the items to undercover officers for much less than what they were worth.
"[The cars were sold for] 200, 300, 400 dollars and the cars these agents would see primarily are Honda Accords, Honda Civics, Acura Integras, a lot of pick-up trucks, Ford 150's, Chevrolet pick-ups," said Rick Madruga, a San Diego County deputy district attorney.
Authorities say many of the suspects have ties to criminal street gangs.
If you're offered a car for five hundred that astounds you, because it's a good deal, it is a too good deal to be true," said Bonnie Dumanis, District Attorney for the county.
The suspects have charged the suspects with auto theft, selling stolen vehicles, sale of controlled substances, illegal gun sales, and insurance fraud.
Auto theft is down by more than 36 percent over the last three years countywide, officials said.
In 2008, 21,863 vehicles were stolen in San Diego County, according to task force statistics. Last year, that number dropped 31% to 15,059 cars stolen. The total number of cars projected to be stolen in 2010 is 13,800, representing a 36% decrease in auto theft countywide over the past three years.
RATT is led by the California Highway Patrol and members include the San Diego County District Attorney's Office; San Diego County Sheriff's Department; the FBI; the police departments in Chula Vista, Carlsbad, Coronado, El Cajon, Escondido, La Mesa and Oceanside; California Department of Insurance; National Insurance Crime Bureau; and the San Diego County Probation Department.
Operation Gangbusters was launched in March 2010.