Auto theft task force fights for funding

Arizona lawmakers are still hammering away on a budget agreement. They've been working into the night all weekend and could continue debating over the weekend. Education is one of the main issues at hand, but there is a state agency that is also fighting to keep its funding. An agency tasked with recovering stolen cars.

The Arizona Automobile Theft Authority could lose $3 million in funding for the 2017 year, if that happens it might not be able to operate at full capacity.

"We have approximately 50 to 60 positions that would be in jeopardy, if we would be in jeopardy of losing funding,we would have to cut back," said Fred Zumbo.

Zumbo is the director of the AATA and hopes it won't have to happen. During the current budget battle, the authority is asking legislators for permission to use $3 million of its money that has been collecting in an account for quite some time. Legislators could choose to put that money towards another use. Zumbo says if that happens programs that are in the works like a statewide bait car program could be at risk.

"Where we have a fleet of bait cars and we can move them to any jurisdiction in the state that needs them that is having an auto theft problem," said Zumbo.

The authority was created in 1997 and funds programs like bait cars, education for officers, and license plate reader systems.

"Our goal is to get more money out and especially in the areas of the border where there's border issues, where we have car thiefs and we also have human traffickers, and drug smugglers, who are using stolen vehicles to facilitate their operations along the boarder," he said.

Auto theft is down in Arizona, and the AATA hopes to keep it that way.

"We used to be number one, we're still in the top ten, we're number eight, but we do not want to return to the days when we were number one in automobile thefts," said Zumbo.

It's unknown where the money would go if it's not granted for use by the AATA, a decision should come once the budget is finalized.