Oceanside police arrest 3 suspects in attempted catalytic converter theft

Incident leads to discovery of 9 converters, authorities say


A stainless steel catalytic converter with an oxygen sensor or O2 sensor is shown installed on an exhaust system under a vehicle. Catalytic converters have become a target for theft in the past few years. (Photo by Tony Savino, iStock Getty Images)


OsideNewsOceanside police arrested three people Monday, Dec. 26, suspected of attempting to steal a catalytic converter, leading to the recovery of nine such devices in the suspects’ vehicle, authorities reported.

The incident happened at about 7 a.m. in the 200 block of El Camino Real in Oceanside when the suspects were interrupted in the act of stealing the converter, according to the Oceanside Police Department’s report. A neighbor smashed the windshield of the suspects’ vehicle as they attempted to flee.

An Oceanside police sergeant leaving work spotted three people walking away from a vehicle with a smashed windshield that had been parked near the Police Department’s headquarters, authorities stated. Two of the suspects were detained as they walked west on Mission Avenue within minutes of a radio call by the sergeant. The third suspect was arrested a short time later in the 3800 block of Mission Avenue.

Surveillance footage confirmed the suspects’ involvement in the attempted theft, according to the Police Department’s report. A search of the vehicle revealed nine catalytic converters in the trunk along with cutting tools and a hydraulic jack consistent with use in such thefts.

Authorities identified the suspects as Jonathan Garcia, 29, John Gonzalez, 28, and Jonathan Valledares Pineda, 32, all San Bernardino residents.

Thefts of catalytic converters have been on the increase in recent years, prized for the metals they contain.

“Catalytic converters are vehicle parts that contain valuable platinum group metals like rhodium, iridium, and palladium,” the Oceanside Police Department stated earlier this year during the promotion of its converter etching events. “The increase in these thefts coincides with the increase in the cost for these precious metals and the increase in demand for catalytic converters due to increasing vehicle emission regulation.”

In January 2022, Carlsbad became the first city in the county to enact an ordinance aimed at curtailing the thefts, which have increased 423% in the county from 2020 to 2021, according to city statistics.

Catalytic converters, which can be stolen from under a vehicle in minutes using common tools, are designed to reduce toxic pollutants by converting them into safer gasses.

OsideNews is an edition of the North Coast Current.