As the economy suffers, more San Diegans are filing fake auto theft claims. And police are doing something new to catch them.
Detective Rollins says people simply can’t afford their cars anymore, and are looking for a way to walk away from their payments. He says some people try to ditch their cars in Mexico, others have hidden cars in storage facilities, and some simply leave their cars parked somewhere with the keys in the ignition hoping it gets stolen.
"Have they recently tried to renegotiate the terms and conditions of their lease? Have they recently been laid off? These are red flags that we look at to see if someone is trying to commit insurance fraud," Rollins says.
So South Bay detectives now treat these cases in a new way: auto theft reports are no longer just taken over the phone, as in most places. A field detective now takes the reports in person, conducts an investigation and requires the person making the claim to sign a report.
Since the department instituted the police about a year ago, there’s been a 34% decrease in people filing reports in Southern Division, which Rollins directly attributes to the new policy.
"We're getting a lot of tips from the public, from neighbors, saying they can't afford that vehicle and all of a sudden it's gone and it's wrong," says Detective Rollins.
Rollins works closely with state investigators, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the District Attorney’s Office and the Probation and Parole department to catch people faking auto theft.