SANTA MARIA, Calif. - DMV investigators just wrapped up a two day sting here on the Central Coast looking for shops that are illegally dismantling vehicles - specifically looking for stolen vehicles that are being broken down for parts.
The DMV has been cracking down on auto shops that are up to no good but they were careful not to call them chop shops because they didn't find any stolen vehicles.
We checked in with the Santa Maria Police Department to see if these chop shops are an issue in town.
"The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that anyone who's going to dismantle a vehicle be licensed," DMV investigator and Chief Frank Alvarez said.
So on Wednesday and Thursday, they were popping hoods, checking VIN numbers and running license plates - looking for stolen cars and parts - from Paso Robles to Lompoc.
DMV investigators said the big problem shops were on Sheradon Road in rural Arroyo Grande.
"We had one licensee tell us they were glad to see us out there because some of the unlicensed operators are operating just one two doors down from them," Alvarez said.
During the sting, 14 locations were cited for illegally dismantling vehicles without a state license to do so. Some of those shops were also cited for not safely disposing toxic fluids.
"One of the problems we see when we go into dismantling yards, once you go in, once the word gets out, these different shops will shut down shop and usually them who are committing these acts that do that," Alvarez said.
Investigators say these weren't considered chop shops because they didn't find any stolen vehicles but there very well could've been if these other businesses had allowed them to take a look inside.
"A chop shop is a location that is involved in the stealing of automobiles and then parting out those automobiles and selling them to repair shops and other places at a reduced rate," Santa Maria Police Lt. Russell Mengel said.
Santa Maria Police say chop shops haven't been a problem in town for about five years or so but say when these used parts don't go through a reputable, licensed dealer, drivers are put in jeopardy.
"Let's talk about airbags, as you're driving down the road..and that airbag has had some prior defect and it didn't go through the proper chain of distribution.. that's a hazard to the commuting public," Mengel said.
"It's just a lot safer to the fact that you know it's coming from Chevy and not a third party," Guadalupe resident Henry Hernandez said.
Henry Hernandez used to put legitimate parts on cars when he worked at a car dealership. He's heard the horror stories of people getting duped with faulty used parts.
"There's even shops that pretend to change your oil or give you an antifreeze swap and it never happens," Hernandez said.
Those shops face fines of up to a thousand dollars.
The Dmv says they'll continue to do these stings. You're urged to contact the DMV if you think a shop is up to no good by visiting www.dmv.ca.gov, to report possible abuse.