An exclusive look with police inside a Charlotte "Chop Shop" - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

An exclusive look with police inside a Charlotte "Chop Shop"

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

We've seen cars that have been stolen and taken apart before.  But we've never seen anything like this.

CMPD invited us along to check out a tip they got about a "Chop Shop" on Dwightware Boulevard off Albemarle Road in east Charlotte.  What we found upon arrival was a 1988 Honda Accord sawed in half, with the hood, hubcaps, doors, seats and wheels strewn around the backyard.

"It's completely chopped up," said Sgt. Rich Tonsberg, head of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Auto Theft Unit.  "There's no telling where all those parts are now.  They could be sold.  They could be taken for scrap metal.  A lot of times we'll see bigger operations with engine hoists and things like that.  This one is relatively simple – in a backyard – but this is the exact thing we want people to be on the lookout for and call us about."

The Accord used to belong to Erik Carcamo.  He'd had the car three years before it was stolen from W.T. Harris Boulevard on April 21st.

"I had new paint in February," he said.  "The suspension was new. The rims were new. The interior was new."

Take one look at it now and you know, there is nothing new about it anymore. 

Police charged 20-year-old Jonathan Cortez with possession of a stolen vehicle and an additional felony charge under the "Chop Shop Law".  That's a law enacted a few years ago in North Carolina with the goal of giving law enforcement added teeth when cracking down on car thieves.

"Chop Shops are somewhat of a growing trend," said Sgt. Tonsberg.  "In the 1990's, we'd recover 90% of stolen cars.  These days we're at a 50%-60% recovery rate because they're so chopped up.  That trend blossomed into the ‘Chop Shop Law' several years ago."

Sgt. Tonsberg says what you see in this story is your typical Charlotte Chop Shop.  They're not fancy.  Usually just stolen cars hidden in a backyard or a garage, then chopped up for parts.

"As we drive by in patrol cars on the street, we're not often able to see into the backyards," he said the afternoon of this bust.  "We only come to backyards if we have a reason, or a tip.  Like today.  But if neighbors see something like this in their backyard, or in a garage, call us.  Or, call us if you see a lot of cars coming in and out of one house every couple days.  Or, like in this case, call us if you see a car sawed in half.  That's not just someone working on cars as a hobby.  An officer can come out and check it out."

You can call CMPD's auto theft unit at 703-336-8338 OR CrimeStoppers at 703-334-1600.  Either call can be anonymous.

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