Five Chop Shops Busted in Orange Cove
Orange Cove, California (KFSN) -- Orange Cove's new police department is cracking down on a major problem with chop shops.
Since the Police Department returned to the small community two months ago, they've uncovered five stolen car rings.
The latest bust came this week at a home on Center -- a home that belongs to Orange Cove City Council member Esther Gonzalez, who was elected to the council two years ago.
But Gonzalez rents it out and police said she called them when she found out a family member was using her house as a home base for illegal activity.
The home looks unassuming, just two doors down from McCord Elementary School, but Orange Cove Police said what happened inside was dangerous.
They showed Action News some of the pictures they took after busting what they call a chop shop after getting a tip from Gonzalez, who turned in her own son-in-law, Ruben Gonzalez.
"She told us 'Go wherever it takes you,'" said Police Chief Frank Steenport. "There was no trying to mitigate it, no. It was like, 'Let's get our kids out and do what you have to do.'"
Gonzalez didn't want to talk on camera because her daughter and two grandkids still live in the home. But off camera, she said that when her daughter told her what was happening, "I did what I had to do. We're just glad police are handling the situation."
Chief Steenport said she did the right thing, and so did her daughter, by telling her mom what was going on.
"It took a lot of courage to come to her and say, 'Mom, help me,' because she knew she was probably going to put her mother in harm's way," said Steenport.
Police believe the bust cleared up several auto theft cases in Fresno and Tulare counties. The engines, doors, and even steering wheels that police seized are now scattered at several storage facilities, waiting for owners to pick them up.
The case is one of five chop shop busts since the Police Department opened in December and the new chief in town hopes the arrests send a message.
"If we find bad behavior, whether it's blowing a stop sign or tearing apart a car," he said, "this Police Department is going to deal with it, irrespective of who you are, who you're related to, who you know."
The chief said he's targeting some longstanding issues in Orange Cove, like the chop shops and gang activity.
He's hoping the city will start feeling less like the Wild West and more like a place to raise a family.
orange cove, crimetracker, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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