More than 40 brand new cars were stolen from a South Bay car dealership parking lot over a two month period, police said Tuesday. About 25 of those stolen vehicles have been recovered, but police are hoping to find the others – and to make more arrests.
The cars are parked at an overflow storage lot where dozens of them mysteriously disappeared over several weeks.
It wasn’t a difficult job for the thieves who broke the lock boxes attached to the car windows, according to the Torrance Police Department. Once broken open, the suspects had the keys in hand and were able to speed off the lot in just moments. This method allowed them to take a few cars at a time in a matter of minutes.
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“Unsure if these are organized car thieves, or they're just opportunists, they found a location that I would say was easy pickin's and they just took advantage of that,” Lt. Robert Watt of the Torrance Police Department said.
So far, 15 people, many of them gang members, have been arrested on suspicion of grand theft.
Watt says the suspect are using the cars for several reasons.
“They're either using them to commit crimes, to joy ride. They're using them for parts or they're using them to sell to other criminals to commit other crimes,” he told NBC4.
Hundreds of brand new cars are parked, waiting to be sold at the South Bay Nissan and South Bay Infinity car dealerships.
It’s difficult for large dealerships like these to tell that a vehicle is missing, police said.
The investigation began eight weeks ago when a stolen Infinity was used as a suspect car in a pursuit.
The dealership did an inventory of their property and saw that multiple cars were missing and stolen.
The dealership is not releasing the financial loss of this crime spree, but they told NBC4 they’ve made changes to secure the lot and all of the cars.
The cars that have been recovered – that are still in good conditions – will still be sold.