San Bernardino City Unified District (SBCUSD) Police Department made arrests in a three-person theft ring that cost taxpayers more than $30,000.
The three men are suspected in the grand theft of catalytic converters at the SBCUSD Nutrition Services Center and may also have been involved in the theft of other catalytic converters in the community. At the time of arrest, the suspects were in possession of illegal firearms, according to District Police officers.
“Catalytic converters contain precious metals that have a high value and that criminals are willing to risk arrest and jail for,” District Police Sergeant John Guttierez said. “It also means that the thefts come at a high financial cost to victims.”
Catalytic converters reduce the toxic emissions released by gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Although some vehicles can operate without a catalytic converter, it’s illegal to operate one without a converter in most states, and personal vehicles will fail a smog check. Catalytic converters can cost upwards of $2,000 to replace.
For the SBCUSD Nutrition Center and local families, the thefts are more than a financial burden on taxpayers. They impact the ability of food services providers to deliver food to the Grab ‘N’ Go Meal distribution sites.
Drivers may not notice right away if the catalytic converter is missing, especially if the car hasn’t been moved. If your vehicle makes a loud roaring sound when you start the engine, especially if it gets louder as you press on the gas pedal, that may be an indication your catalytic converter has been stolen.
“Although these suspects are in custody, there are other criminals committing similar crimes in our city,” Guttierez said. “Stay alert for suspicious activity and report any thefts to law enforcement. Don’t confront the criminals yourself, as they may be armed.”
SBCUSD Police recommend that community members park in well-lit or secure areas if possible to reduce the likelihood of a theft. Installing motion-activated lights, home or business security cameras, or etching a VIN (vehicle identification number) or license plate number on the catalytic converter can also help prevent thefts and assist officers in recovering the property.