Prolific Car Thieves Nabbed in Koreatown

January 27, 2006

Los Angeles: Computer analysis and old-fashioned police work led to the arrest of two men in Koreatown on January 24, 2006. Detectives believe the two men are esponsible for hundreds of Toyota Camry thefts over the last year.

Just after the New Year began, auto theft Detective Frank Carrillo walked into the Wilshire Police Station roll call room with information to help patrol officer focus on the stolen-car problem.

“We did an analysis to find the profile of the most frequently stolen car,” said Detective Carrillo. “It was the Toyota Camry. We showed the officers where the cars were being taken from and where others were dumped.”

Patrol Officers Nicholas Lee and Manuel Mata put the information to good use. They noticed two Camrys near Pico Boulevard and Western Avenue, and started watching them for activity. In short order, Lee and Mata arrested two men for stripping parts from the cars. Both cars were stolen, but one, from the Wilshire area, had not been reported yet, and the other had been taken recently from Jefferson Boulevard and Hoover Avenue in Southwest Area.

Carlos Contreras, 37, once lived on Arlington Avenue, but claims he is now homeless. He has a prior criminal record for property crimes and had an arrest warrant for receiving stolen property. His partner, Abelino Gonzales, 41, also claimed to be homeless, but had no prior criminal record. Both men were charged with Grand Theft Auto. They were arraigned on January 26, 2006.

The two men used shaved keys to steal the cars. Detectives believe they may have stolen as many as two cars a night. They would strip the cars of easily-sold parts as well as any valuables left in the cars. They used the proceeds to sustain their drug habits.

Last year, 1,600 cars were stolen from within the Wilshire Area. Toyota Camry was the most frequently stolen car. In the last twelve months, 283 Toyota Camrys were reported stolen in the Wilshire Area.

Auto theft dropped 14 percent city-wide in 2005.

Drivers can reduce the chances of having their car stolen by following these guides:

Park in well-lit, secure lots when ever possible; secure the car and take the key; don’t leave valuables in plain sight; install anti-theft systems to deter thieves or slow them down; don’t lend your car to persons you don’t know well or can’t trust.