LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department held a news conference Tuesday, and their data shows car thefts have increased in the county during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Taskforce for Regional Auto Theft Protection (TRAP) investigated the case of 24-year-old Jose Enrique Esquivel. Esquivel is accused of stealing 14 cars.
"He [Esquivel] would commit crime number one and then because of the zero bail policy, he was naturally released due to the pandemic. Within days or sometimes hours of being released from police custody, he would turn around and commit the exact same crime," said Alex Karkanen, a Deputy District Attorney with TRAP.
Karkanen said Esquivel took advantage of the zero bail policy at the time.
"Because the zero bail program was in place while he was committing his crimes, he certainly was able to use that to his benefit. He would do this again and again and again and like I said during this window of two months, he did this at least 14 times," said Karkanen.
The victims who have come forward live in the areas of South East Los Angeles County and within the city of Los Angeles. The victims were described as people with "modest incomes," by the Sheriff's Department.
"Suspect Esquivel showed little regard for the owners of these vehicles. They many times depended on these stolen vehicles as their sole means of transportation," said Captain Martin Rodriguez, the Project Director for TRAP.
Rodriguez said car thefts have increased 18% this year to date in the county.
"We're investigating several cases and individuals who have taken multiple vehicles during this period and have received citations. Stolen vehicle theft has increased exponentially especially during the months of March through June, obviously the same period that we've all been struggling during the COVID-19 restrictions," he said.
Esquivel is being held on a $610,000 bond currently for multiple charges.
Anyone who believes they may be an additional victim of Suspect Jose Enrique Esquivel is asked to call TRAP at 800-299-8727.