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Police, businesses unveil new strategy for catalytic converter thefts

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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More than 300 Roseville residents have known the sting of finding their catalytic converter stolen in the last two years — and now police and local businesses are unveiling a new strategy to battle the costly crime trend.

Despite a host of state-wide regulations that were passed to combat metal theft, sawing catalytic converters off the bottom of trucks and SUVs remains a favorite method of funding hardcore drug addiction in California. Roseville has not been immune to these crimes. The Roseville Police Department dealt with 137 cases of catalytic converters being stolen in 2011 and 182 cases in 2012. The combined estimated property damage to residents was more than $500,000.

The primary vehicles being targeted are the Toyota Tundra, the Toyota Sequoia, the Toyota 4-Runner and a number of Nissan SUVs.

“The thieves can cut two catalytic converters off the bottom of a vehicle in less than three minutes while making hardly any sound at all,” said Michael Morrison, a mechanic for Roseville Toyota. “There’s a hand tool that will cut them off without barely any sound.”

Hoping to curb the spree, the Roseville Police Department is teaming up with Roseville Toyota, Firestone Auto Care and Bill McAnally Racing Napa Auto Care. The police and repair shops will offer a free service that spray paints catalytic converters on high-target vehicles bright orange and etches their license plate numbers into a window on the converter — a place where thieves can’t remove it.

“What’s driving this is the price of metal,” Roseville Police Chief Daniel Hahn said today at a press conference. “What might cost a resident $2,000 to $5,000 to repair gets the thieves about $100 on the black market. We can’t control the price of metal, but we can control how our community works against this type of crime.”

Hahn went on to explain that one of the biggest challenges for his officers and detectives when they find stolen converters on suspects is linking the property back to the victims in order to charge a crime.

“This solves that problem,” Hahn said. “It also puts the recyclers on notice that they shouldn’t be taking in these converters, and if they do, they can be charged with a crime.”

Dominic Campanelli, the operations manager for Roseville Toyota, said his business was eager to get involved with new program.

“When Roseville PD asked me if we wanted to take part in this effort, it didn’t take much thought,” Campanelli said. “These thefts are costing our consumers and driving up insurance prices.”

Roseville Vice Mayor Carol Garcia said some of the money to pay for the program came from the Citizens Benefit Fund.

For Hahn, teaming up with the city council and local businesses on the catalytic converter problems is part of a larger trajectory in keeping the city’s quality of life good.

“Overall, general thefts in Roseville in 2012 were down by 8 percent from the previous year, putting them at their lowest point since 2001,” Hahn said. “So while property crime was up across California last year, it was down in Roseville. And the biggest reason is because of partnerships like this.”