The San Diego District Attorney has charged 31 suspected thieves after authorities dismantled multiple auto-theft rings.
Police arrested 44 men and women for stealing 84 vehicles across San Diego County as part of “Operation Last Judgment."
Police say thieves typically broke into private homes, took car keys, then came back later and stole the resident’s car.
"In one brazen case a woman watched her car drive away after leaving it unattended for a few seconds,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said Thursday.
Police will not disclose exactly where the thefts occurred.
However, they do tell NBC 7 San Diego that some of the thieves preyed on vehicles at beach parking lots.
We are told in Mission Valley, they were also breaking into mailboxes, stealing checks and identification cards. Undercover agents also confiscated guns and a variety of street drugs from suspects.
Authorities say late 1990s model Hondas are popular among car thieves since their ignitions can be easily broken into.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Dix says the cars are then sold for around $300.
“The people that would purchase stolen cars are using them for a specific reason potentially to transport drugs across the border a couple of times, they'll switch the plates maybe to use them in a crime,” Dix explained.
All 84 vehicles were returned to their owners and 31 suspects are facing felony charges including vehicle theft, residential burglary, possession of stolen property and illegal weapons.
If convicted, they could receive up to 25 years in prison.