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SDPD Units

Auto Theft Unit

In our society, vehicles are an important part of our daily lives. When a vehicle is stolen, it is usually an expensive loss that disrupts our routines. The goal of the San Diego Police Department Auto Theft Unit is the reduction and prevention of vehicle thefts and to assist with the recovery of stolen vehicles and the prosecution of those that steal vehicles.

Reporting Auto Theft

Stolen car reports are usually taken over the phone. To report your vehicle stolen call (619) 531-2000 and an officer will call you back to obtain the necessary information.

Has your stolen car been recovered? The Auto Theft Unit normally contact the registered owner when a stolen car is recovered. If you are checking to see if your car has been recovered and you have not been contacted, call (619) 531-2844.

Checking Your Auto Theft Case Status

Unfortunately, the number of cases the Auto Theft Unit investigates prevent them from routinely contacting each victim. A Detective will contact you for information when needed. If you believe you have information which would be of value to the investigation, you may call the General line and ask to speak to the the Detective handling your case.

Cars Recovered in Mexico

If you locate and recover your vehicle in Mexico, notify the U.S. Customs inspector when crossing the U.S. / Mexico border. You will be sent to a "secondary inspection" area and either the California Highway Patrol or San Diego Police Department will dispatch an officer to examine your vehicle and check your identification. The officer will release the vehicle to the registered owner. This is an important step. If you do not have the vehicle recovered and released by a U.S. police department, you will be driving a vehicle that is STILL reported stolen. You could be stopped and detained at gunpoint!

Cars Stolen in Mexico

If your vehicle is stolen in Mexico, contact the local Mexican authorities and make a police report. Note the report number and agency name. Obtain an original, certified Mexican police report from the police agency. Upon your return to the U.S. contact the California Highway Patrol at a local office. Bring your identification, and the certified, original Mexican theft report. The vehicle must be currently registered in the U.S. and the registered owner must live in the U.S. Be sure to bring your identification.

Rental Car Thefts and Embezzlement

Whenever any person who has leased or rented a vehicle willfully and intentionally fails to return the vehicle to its owner within five days after the lease or rental agreement has expired, that person shall be presumed to have embezzled the vehicle.

To assist with the investigation and successful prosecution of an embezzled vehicle, the Auto Theft Unit require the following information and documents:

  • A legible copy of the original SIGNED rental contract that includes the renter's full name, address, telephone number, drivers license number and state, rental and scheduled return dates, total amount paid at the time of rental and form of payment.
  • A legible copy of the demand letter requiring the exact location of the vehicle be disclosed.
  • A copy of the returned, sealed, certified envelope or signed receipt of delivery.
  • Renting agent's name, home address, SSN or drivers license and state, date of birth, home and work phone numbers.
  • Written documentation indicating what steps your company has taken to recover the vehicle. Include each involved employee's name, home address, SSN, or drivers license and state, date of birth, home and work phone numbers.
  • Any and all extensions to the original contract, whether made verbally or in writing. All documentation must include the date the extension was requested and/or granted along with the date the vehicle was to be returned, the person requesting the extension, the person granting the extension and the reason given for the extension (if any). Document all conversations with the suspect. Do not make any offers to extend the contract if additional fees are paid.
  • All payments applied to the contract and indicate whether the payment was in cash, credit or debit card, electronic transfer or check.
  • Complete a two page Vehicle Embezzlement Addendum Report (PDF).

After all the above documents and information are obtained, call the Auto Theft Unit at (619) 533-5710 to schedule and appointment for an "In-Person" report.

Failure to Return a Borrowed Car

If you have loaned your vehicle to another person to drive and this person does not return the vehicle, certain documentation is required to report the car stolen. Since the vehicle is being operated with permission of the owner, this permission needs to be rescinded. Send a letter to the person via Registered Mail-Return Receipt. The language of the letter should include:

"Your permission to operate this vehicle is rescinded. You are to stop operating the vehicle immediately. Park the vehicle legally and notify me of the location, so I may recover it. If you fail to comply with these instructions, I will report the vehicle as stolen." (Including language that instructs the borrower to return the vehicle implies further permission to operate the vehicle.) The letter should also include a description of the vehicle including the year, make, model, color, license plate number and VIN.

Keep a copy of the letter and post office documents needed to send it. After the letter has been mailed, you will either receive proof of delivery or the letter will be returned by the post office as unclaimed.

If you are not successful in getting your vehicle back, call the Auto Theft Unit and make an appointment to come to the office and report the vehicle as stolen. These reports will not be taken over the phone. You will be required to appear in person and sign the theft report. You must also be willing to press charges and testify in court against the person to whom you loaned the vehicle.

Additional Considerations

If you have had a vehicle stolen by a fraudulent credit application, forged checks, or identity theft within the city of San Diego, contact the San Diego Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit at (619) 531-2545.

If your vehicle was embezzled, borrowed, or taken by adult or minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or a person with whom the suspect has had a child, is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship contact the Domestic Violence Unit at (619) 533-3500.

Laws Pertaining to Auto Theft

  • 10851(a) CVC, Auto Theft
  • 487(d)(1) PC, Grand Theft
  • 496d PC, Possession of Stolen Property
  • Section 2312 USC National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, Title 8
  • 10502 CVC, Report to CHP
  • 10852 CVC, Tampering with a Vehicle
  • 466 PC, Burglary Tools
  • 459 PC, Burglary
Reports
  • 10501(a) CVC, False Reports
  • 148.5 PC, False Reports
  • 550 a-4 PC, Insurance Fraud
Alterations
  • 10750 CVC, Altering Numbers
  • 10751 CVC, Buying, Receiving or Possession with Altered numbers
Other Related Laws
  • 28 CVC, Notification to Police of Repossession
  • 2805 CVC, Inspection of Registration
  • 4461-4462 CVC, Registration
  • 4463 CVC, False License Plates - Felony
  • 450A PC, Arson
  • 548 PC, Arson
  • 10855 CVC, Embezzled Vehicle