Crooks grab dozens of cars off Mid-South roads

By Aaron Diamant

Every day, crooks grab dozens of cars off Mid-South roads. Many wind up in area chop shops. Target 5 reports how those chop shops are dealing in danger.  A chop shop can often get 500 bucks for just one door or a fender, or a windshield. And you don't have to drive a fancy car to be a target.

Members of the Mid-South's Auto Theft Task Force say if you look up "Chop Shop" in a dictionary there'd be a picture of dozens of cars and thousands of car parts strewn all over a yard in rural Crittenden County. And as far as number of vehicles, Crittenden County had the biggest bust the Task Force has made in years. At least 13 vehicles found there were stolen off the streets of Memphis, including a 1992 Mitsubishi van, taken from Sally Murphy back in January. We told her where police found it. Sally Murphy said, "Man, Golly, why a chop shop? It wasn't that spectacular." But the cars weren't stolen for their looks, they were stolen for their parts.

Task Force members say area "chop shops" often supply parts to rebuild thousands of wrecked or salvaged vehicles. It nearly wound up on a Memphis used-car lot, but the dealer who bought it at auction started having problems with it, got suspicious, and brought the truck to the task force. An inspection found it had been wrecked and rebuilt. Tom Zimmer, Auto Cargo Task Force said, "The worst part about this one is the frame the backbone of this vehicle has been cut in half," making the truck less strong and less safe. "Not only would I not want my family in this vehicle, I wouldn't want this vehicle on the road near my family."

There are no concrete numbers, but the auto industry estimates 100-thousand rebuilt-wrecks hit the road every year. One reason why city, county, and federal authorities created this task force five years ago to crack down on chop shops in metropolitan Memphis and the thieves who supply them. Ellis Young, FBI Special Agent said, "Back then we were losing around 100 vehicles a day. The numbers were hitting 12,000 vehicles per year." But at last count that number was under 8-thousand vehicles a year according to federal statistics, lowering the Memphis area's auto-theft rate from fourth in the nation to twenty fourth. But with an unknown number of backyard chop shops still hidden throughout the Mid-South, those doing the hunting know they have a long way to go. But while the theft rate may be down for our area, there are certain pockets of the Mid-South that are seeing it's rate of stolen cars skyrocket.


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