FAIRFIELD — Solano County residents will pay a little more when they register their vehicles starting in January 2015 to raise more money for county auto theft law enforcement efforts.
The county Board of Supervisors made the decision Tuesday by a 5-0 vote. They raised a local fee to fight auto theft from $1 to $2 for most autos and from $2 to $4 for commercial vehicles. The fees are paid along with registration or renewal.
Sheriff Tom Ferrara talked of going after chop shops and stopping thefts from auto dealerships.
“I think my focus will be on really going after the big guys,” Ferrara said.
The existing fees raise $331,500 annually, with $162,500 going to the Sheriff’s Office for enforcement and $162,500 to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecutions. The fee increases approved Tuesday will boost the annual income to $663,000, a county report said.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau ranked Vallejo-Fairfield as eighth in the nation for auto thefts among metropolitan areas for 2012.
Supervisor Jim Spering noted the high number of auto thefts in Fairfield and Vallejo. He asked that some of the new money go toward prevention. Land use and code enforcement can be some of the tools, he said.
“We just shouldn’t assume we’re going to be the car theft capital forever,” Spering said. “We should try to change the trend.”
Fairfield City Councilwoman Pam Bertani is running against Spering in November for the 3rd District seat. She stepped to the microphone during public comments to support the fee increases.
Fairfield has seen auto theft numbers rise from 347 in 2011 to 497 in 2012 to 629 in 2013, she said. She’s talked to residents in neighborhoods ranging from Woodcreek to Rolling Hills to Parkway Gardens about the problem, she said.
“It’s scary and it wreaks havoc on families,” Bertani said.
His office prosecutes 280 to 350 auto theft cases annually, District Attorney Don du Bain said. He didn’t know how many auto theft cases result in convictions. Some of the cases are dismissed in exchange to pleas for other felonies, he said.
Supervisor Erin Hannigan wants more detailed information gathered in the future.
“I think it’s kind of important to say, if we’re putting money into this process, that we’re also reaping some benefits and we’re seeing what these results are and we can follow the trend,” she said.
County Principal Management Analyst Ian Goldberg said the expanded auto theft law enforcement program will have an expanded tracking system, as well.
Supervisor Skip Thomson proposed the fee increases at previous Board of Supervisor meetings. Ninety-three percent of vehicles stolen in the county get recovered, but arrests and prosecutions are far fewer, he said.
“We’re not doing a very good job doing the investigation and arresting the bad guy,” Thomson said at the June 3 meeting.
But the Board of Supervisors at that June 3 meeting deadlocked 2-2 on fee increases, with Supervisor John Vasquez absent. All four supervisors supported increasing the fees, but disagreed over how the additional revenue should be split between the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office.
The board decided Tuesday that 100 percent would go the Sheriff’s Office the first year to ramp up the improved program, with 25 percent going to the District Attorney’s Office in subsequent years. The board will review the program annually and could adjust these figures.
“How come you guys couldn’t solve it last week?” Vasquez said after the vote.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.