The Mercury News Weekend

Police warn of possibly armed catalytic converter thieves roaming streets

Eight catalytic converters were stolen on March 21; one of the suspects appeared to carry an assault rifle

- By Austin Turner aturner@ bayareanew­

>> One of three suspects who stole as many as eight catalytic converters in an overnight spree last month may have been armed with an AK-47style assault rifle, according to authoritie­s.

Private security video from a resident captured three suspects wearing hooded sweatshirt­s during the March 21 rash of thefts. According to police, the suspect vehicle was a dark-colored 2010 or later model Audi with stock, five-spoke colored wheels. Authoritie­s did not release a complete descriptio­n of the suspects.

Redwood City police issued a public safety announceme­nt Thursday urging residents to dial 911 if they witness an in-progress catalytic converter theft, rather than inserting themselves into a potentiall­y dangerous situation.

Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise for years and have prompted new laws in California. The expensive car part scrubs vehicles' emissions to make them less toxic, and they contain precious metals which can ramp up the resale price for thieves to flip.

The RCPD warning comes after several violent Bay Area catalytic converter thefts in recent months. On March 17, a man suspected of stealing catalytic converters in an unincorpor­ated area of Redwood City was arrested after he allegedly robbed a witness of his mobile phone at gunpoint after noticing the victim recording him.

Just days earlier, on March 14, a man was crushed to death in Oakland after a car jack malfunctio­ned while he was allegedly attempting to steal a catalytic converter.

In August, shots were fired after an alleged thief was confronted by a person armed with a BB gun in Pacifica. The suspect fired live rounds at the person, but no one was injured.

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