OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Oakland’s brazen auto burglars are becoming bolder, more heavily armed, and organized by large criminal enterprises, police said at a news conference Tuesday. The city is experiencing a 41 percent surge in auto burglaries compared to crime statistics last year.

More than 11,000 vehicles have been burglarized in Oakland in 2023. “That’s a significant increase. I’m from Oakland. Everywhere you go in Oakland, this is what people are talking about,” Interim Assistant Chief Tony Jones told reporters gathered at the police station.

“The individuals involved in auto burglaries are extremely brazen. They are carrying guns. Citizens try to stop it and are assaulted. Do not try to engage with individuals who break into your car. They are armed and dangerous,” Jones cautioned. “It’s just not worth it.”

Jones said undercover Oakland Police Department officers are stepping up enforcement to catch auto burglars in the act in East and West Oakland.

Officers are well aware that they are chasing after criminals using tricky tactics, such as switching out license plates on stolen cars with half a dozen other stolen plates. “We are aware of the plates being switched multiple times. But you can’t change a white Honda into a Lexus. We have to be just as vigilant and adapt,” Jones said.

OPD highlighted several recent busts, including one of Grand Avenue when officers caught auto burglars in the act. A ground and air pursuit ended with two arrests on Potter Street.

In a second undercover bust, “officers observed two individuals cutting off a catalytic converter from a parked vehicle. When officers attempted to intervene, the two individuals fled in their stolen vehicle and intentionally rammed an OPD unmarked police vehicle, narrowly striking an undercover officer.” A foot chase ended with two serial catalytic converter thieves in handcuffs, police said.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao commended the OPD for hitting the streets and nabbing auto thieves. “Auto thefts have become all to common. Because something is common, does not mean we get used to it. We deserve better, all of us. We must and we will do more to hold these individuals accountable for these crimes,” Thao told reporters.