SAN BERNARDINO — Tracking a faint signal from an anti-theft device, Redlands police followed a stolen motorcycle straight to a Rialto “chop shop” earlier this month.
The Aug. 3 pursuit began 10 miles east in Redlands, where the department’s single-engine Cessna 172 plane followed the stolen motorcycle’s LoJack signal to an address in the 200 block of East Randall Avenue. Authorities aboard the chopper then directed Rialto police to the location where they located two stolen bikes and the illicit dismantling operation. Officers arrested Bobby Gene Turner, 35, during the raid.
The San Bernardino Auto Theft Task Force was brought in to conduct a follow-up.
“There’s a misconception about just what a chop shop is,” explained SANCATT Sgt. Jeff Reeves. “Most people think it’s organized events taking place at an industrial warehouse with organized crime involvement.”
Typically, he said, “it takes place in an open field. There are lots of chop shops,” all of which are targeting cars, motorcycles and trucks. Hired thieves can make $500 for a quick vehicle theft, turning the car over to chop shop gurus who will strip the cars for parts.
It’s a huge business, said Sgt. Emil Kokesh, one of the lead SANTACC investigators.
“We’re on Craigslist all the time,” he said. “We monitor it regularly.”
The top targets for thieves include Honda vehicles, specifically 1991 Honda Accords, 1994 Civics and 1995 Acura Integras.
Said Reeves: “You cannot buy a crate motor from Honda to replace those engines. They’re $10,000, $15,000. It’s easier to steal them and put them into the old vehicle.”
Tracking down auto thieves can bring its fair share of danger.
“It really depends on who we’re dealing with,” said Kokesh. “The younger crowd who race cars … they carry guns.”