San Mateo: 4 catalytic converter theft suspects nabbed in 24 hours

in Crime

Four suspects were arrested in a 24-hour period on suspicion of stealing catalytic converters from cars in San Mateo, police said Tuesday.

On Monday, at 3:10 a.m., officers arrested three suspects after they were seen cutting a catalytic converter from a vehicle in the 900 block of S. B Street.

“The getaway driver and both suspects under the car were arrested,” police said, adding that officers recovered a stolen catalytic converter, floor jack, power drill, narcotics and drug paraphernalia.

The arrested include Benjamin Rodriguez Jr., 40, of Stockton; Saroun Choeung, 33, of San Jose and Francis Albert Acosta, 36, of Stockton.

Then on Tuesday at 1:42 a.m., a fourth catalytic converter theft suspect was arrested with help from Foster City police. A resident on Ribbon Street witnessed his vehicle’s converter being stolen and called police. The fleeing suspects took officers on a chase around Foster City before running from their vehicles. After a pursuit through land and water, a perimeter was set up and one of the suspects was located by a San Mateo police K9. He was arrested for numerous felonies and misdemeanors and several ‘cut’ catalytic converters and burglary tools were found in the suspect vehicle, police said.

San Mateo and other cities are seeing an increase in catalytic converter thefts, with thieves generally targeting high-profile vehicles like trucks or SUV’s because the higher ground clearance allows for easier access underneath the vehicle. Sports cars and sedans are not immune to such thefts, and Toyota Prius models are specifically targeted.

Converters contain several types of recyclable materials that can be easily ‘scrapped’ for a quick profit, police said.

To prevent such thefts, police recommend parking in areas frequented by passers-by, such as under lights after dark or near windows at a business or near security cameras. Other strategies are to weld shut any “bolt on” model of converter or to etch the converter with your vehicle identification number in several different locations, helping police track your property if stolen.

Photo of stolen catalytic converters courtesy of the San Mateo Police Department.