PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – During a Portland Police Bureau “car theft mission” to find stolen vehicles on Tuesday, officers found nearly a dozen stolen cars, made 18 arrests, recovered guns and thousands of fentanyl pills in East Portland.

“The commander at each precinct said that this is a big enough problem in our precinct that we need to make a special effort here,” PPB Sergeant Kevin Allen said of car thefts in Portland.

He says a lot of stolen cars end up in east Portland, particularly in the Gateway neighborhood. So, a team of officers focused their mission in the area to track down stolen cars.

“A bunch of people were hired on overtime, they also had the Neighborhood Response Team in East Precinct involved in this mission. The mission was during day shift, and it was about 10 hours and over the course of those 10 hours they had really good success,” Allen explained.

He says during those 10 hours, the team of officers arrested 18 people, mostly on outstanding warrants. They also recovered 11 stolen cars and bags with 3,000 fentanyl pills.

“The fentanyl that we’ve seen on the street, these can be incredibly dangerous,” Allen said. He added “hopefully that’s an overdose that doesn’t happen.”

Allen says officers found the drugs after making a traffic stop – he says the two people in the vehicle were taken into custody on outstanding warrants.

He explained that traffic stops played a big role in this operation.

“They’ll start running plates. Also, there are a lot of cars that are driving around without plates or driving around with switched plates so, they might pay attention to whether the vehicle has a plate on it that matches the description that we have in our DMV files. So, all of those are reasons to stop a car and investigate whether might be stolen or not,” Allen said.

He tells KOIN 6 that the bureau would like to do this type of proactive work more often, but with PPB’s current staffing crisis it’s just not possible.

“We’re thrilled to get the illegal items off the street, but we also know that the problem is way bigger than that. So, it’s really a drop in the bucket,” Allen said.