SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Police say they raided a chop shop in South Fulton County and found nearly 30 stolen cars and hundreds of car parts after nearly a yearlong investigation.
Channel 2's Tom Regan was on Burton Drive, where since January, police have been investigating what looked like a salvage yard, but which they believed was selling stolen parts. South Fulton County has been dealing with a rash of stolen cars and break-ins recently.
Police said they found trailers filled with car parts in the lot and numerous cars stripped of their parts over almost 3 1/2 acres. Police said cars stolen from over half-dozen cities and counties were taken to the lot to be disassembled or have their parts sold or used to repair other stolen cars.
Police said that since Wednesday, they've found stolen cars not only from South Fulton County but from College Park, the City of Atlanta, Henry, Coweta and Clayton counties.
"At this point, we've managed to uncover at least 27 stolen cars, along with countless number of stolen car parts," City of South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows said. "They take the VIN numbers off and change the identification of certain vehicles. Right now, you can imagine this is a daunting task."
On Wednesday, police arrested Karla Hill, who owns the property.
Hill has been charged with 26 counts of theft by receiving and one count of owning and operating a chop shop operation.
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Meadows said police will be combing through evidence for at least another two days.
Officers believe they'll find at least 50 stolen cars at the location and say more arrests will come.
Regan spoke to neighbors who said crime has gotten worse -- but they didn't know about the chop shop. Michael Williams said she never guessed an alleged multi-acre chop shop full of stolen cars operated around the corner.
"I don't know what to say," Williams said. "That's pretty crazy."
Meadows told Regan he's working with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to help identify the stolen vehicles.
They include sports cars like Dodge Challengers, which are in high demand for parts.
Nationwide, car thefts amount to billions of dollars a year and ultimately pushes up the price people pay for car insurance. That's why investigators say it's important to crack down on chop shops.
Regan talked to City of South Fulton Councilwoman Helen Willis, who said that once the vehicles are removed, the Environmental Protection Agency will be called in to see if there are any public health risks from contamination of motor vehicle fluids.
"It also has some environmental concerns we have to address," Willis said.
Local residents told Regan they were happy to hear about the raid and hope that one day, the area can be revitalized with new homes and businesses.
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