Dozens indicted following undercover car theft operation

SAN DIEGO — Five dozen people, including some who worked in organized crime rings, were indicted following an undercover auto theft operation in San Diego in which officers bought stolen vehicles, drugs and firearms, authorities announced Thursday.

“Operation Kill Switch” — which ran from February through September — was conducted by the San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Task Force. Seventy vehicles worth at estimated $1.1 million were recovered, along with several U-Haul trucks.

“Dozens of car thieves have been shut down as a result of this operation, thanks to the excellent work done by RATT and its law enforcement partners,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “We’ve seen vehicle thefts start to go back up in recent years, so staying vigilant and supporting RATT’s mission is an important component of keeping San Diego one of the safest urban counties in the nation.”

Authorities made arrests Wednesday during an early-morning sweep across San Diego County.

Defendants face sentences from probation to 10 years in prison if convicted of charges including auto theft, residential burglary and possession of stolen property.

Statistics show an increase in vehicle thefts for two years in row — 2015-2016 — after a drop in 2013 and 2014, authorities said.