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The Minnetonka Police Department is assigning an investigator to focus solely on recovering stolen vehicles and preventing auto thefts.

A three-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce is funding the full-time position, allowing a detective to investigate reports of stolen vehicles, license plates and catalytic converters.

Minnetonka also received a Department of Commerce grant of $88,000 to buy auto theft prevention technology, such as automated license plate readers that alert officers when they detect a license plate that has been reported stolen.

Over the years, the department has used the technology to recover numerous vehicles, particularly in the Ridgedale area, said detective Pat Eggleston. Now, with the added benefit of a dedicated investigator, Minnetonka is taking a proactive role in addressing auto theft and the more dangerous crimes to which it often leads.

"Nine times out of 10, [car thieves are] using a stolen car to go commit another crime. It's bigger than just a stolen vehicle," Eggleston said. "The time I'm allowed to assist in solving vehicle thefts has for sure helped reduce the number of thefts and other crimes happening in our community."