Oceanside police officers arrested three theft suspects Monday morning shortly after they were interrupted in the act of stealing a vehicle’s catalytic converter, police said.
A search of the vehicle the trio had been in turned up nine more catalytic converters, police said.
The suspects were allegedly in the middle of a theft about 7 a.m. in the area of El Camino Real and Los Arbolitos Boulevard — about a block from police headquarters — when a bystander caught them in the act and smashed their windshield as they fled the scene, Oceanside police spokesperson Jennifer Atenza wrote in a news release.
Descriptions of the suspects were sent over police radios, and “within minutes” officers spotted two of the men walking along Mission Avenue, Atenza wrote. Officers detained the pair, and a short time later also detained the third suspect.
The search of their vehicle turned up the nine catalytic converters in the trunk, along with cutting tools and a hydraulic jack “consistent with the tools utilized in the theft of catalytic converters,” Atenza wrote.
Catalytic converters are a part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, helping reduce the amount of pollutants and toxic gases that are discharged. They contain precious metals, including platinum, in their cores. Thieves often target the devices because of their high value, lack of identifying markings and relative ease with which they can be cut off and removed.
Federal authorities recently took down a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, alleging that a trio in Sacramento sold more than $38 million worth of the stolen auto parts to a repair shop in New Jersey.
The suspects arrested Monday were three men, ages 32, 29, and 28, from San Bernardino. According to Atenza, they were taken into custody on suspicions of grand theft, possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Jail records showed all three suspects remained in custody late Monday in lieu of $150,000 bail. According to Atenza, conditions were set on their bail intended to prevent funds from previous criminal activity from being used to post the bail.
Oceanside police urged anyone who may have been a victim of the group, or anyone with information about recent catalytic converter thefts, to contact Detective Chris James at (760) 435-4286 or [email protected]