uFixIt: Aiding shop owners besieged by thieves

SAN JOSE, Calif.

A group of auto shop owners say criminals know they are an easy target and are descending upon them at night, and they can't get police to pay attention. Surveillance video footage shows thieves working the lots at night on Winfield Avenue in San Jose.

Franklin Aghaie, who owns Advanced Import Auto, is one of many auto shop owners in the complex who are being targeted. He says the nighttime raids could put him out of business and that already they've lost thousands in tools and equipment.

Besides breaking windows and stripping dashboards, the thieves are vandalizing cars customers have left overnight for repair. "The next day morning you came in and you see there is no stereo in it, no steering wheel, no air bag," Aghaie said.

Small business owners in the area are being hit hard. They're paying to fix vandalized cars out of pocket to keep their business insurance rates down, which costs several hundred dollars a pop, they say.

Shop owner Inderjit Goraya says the thieves are a huge liability. "They even take the insurance cards and the registrations out of the cars, so I don't know what they're doing with that."

The business owners say they're filing reports, but that San Jose police aren't patrolling enough. They're upset, they say, with a department decision to stop responding to burglar alarms unless someone calls in and verifies a crime.

"We expect police to do something about it because we don't want to take it in our hands," Goraya said. But if it keeps happening, he says he may start to have employees stay overnight.

"These are situations where the police department not just here in San Jose, but other police departments throughout the nation, have changed their policing delivery model because of budget cuts," said Jose Garcia, spokesperson for the San Jose Police Department.

The SJPD has lost 300 officers in the last few years, he noted. He added: "We know that our community is suffering and that's something we take personally."

But things are changing on Winfield Blvd. After we called the SJPD and the district's city councilmember, Nancy Pyle, the police added more patrols. Plus, police said they are offering to sit down with shop owners to make a plan going forward.

Now the shop owners will have a fighting chance. "Finally we are glad that we have some attention from Channel 7 and they respond and they can give our voice to the city of San Jose," Aghaie said.

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