Police Hope 'Operation Knee Drag' Curbs Motorcycle Thefts

Thieves are stealing expensive motorcycles and making a profit, and San Diego ranks second in the U.S. when it comes to motorcycle thefts.

10News obtained video that showed how fast thieves could steal a motorcycle.

The thieves circle an area to make sure police are not around, and then they come back and take the bikes.

What the thieves in the video did not know was that they were being watched.

Police ended up chasing the thieves on the freeway. Some were able to get away by crossing the border to Mexico, and some were not so lucky.

Sport bikes of all types are disappearing all of the time, police said. The suspected thieves have ties to Mexican drug cartels, police added.

"They're not limited to just drugs. They're actually doing kidnap for ransoms and a variety of other crimes. That's what the cartels do; whatever is lucrative and is working they will continue to exploit," said Capt. Leonard Miranda of the Chula Vista Police Department.

Police have now identified 150 thieves in the San Diego area. They said a majority of them are connected to Mexican drug cartels, including the Arellano-Felix group.

Police said the thieves steal the bikes and throw them in what they call "shoeboxes," or a stolen van, and then are hidden inside.

"Boxing them up and then taking them down south into Mexico," said Miranda.

Police are now cracking down on these criminals through what they call Operation Knee Drag.

Since the operation began, the motorcycle theft rate in San Diego has dropped by 20 percent.

Police are using bait bikes in order to help nab thieves.

"We have seen bait bikes sit. Once they've been placed for about 11 minutes some criminals came by and took the bait bike," said Miranda.

What can bike owners do to prevent thefts?

Police said buying a special lock could help keep thieves away.

Owners could also sign up for a monitoring system like LoJack.

Dan Jacques of Southbay Motorsports said many criminals follow the bike owner and wait for the opportunity to take it.

"You stop at a buddy's house, you can come out 10 minutes later and the bike isn't going to be there," said Jacques.

Police said even LoJack might not help once the bike makes it into Mexico.