Catalytic converter theft victims flock to get rebar cages

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Chris Lutgen’s Nissan Frontier made horrible noise after thieves stole its catalytic converter.

“It definitely lets them know you’re coming,” Lutgen joked as a mechanic moved his van into the MGR Mufflers & Auto Repair garage on San Pablo Avenue in Richmond.

He decided not only to get a new converter, but also a rebar cage for extra protection.

“It’s just a shame there’s an outlet for people to steal those precious catalytic converters along with the heavy metals,” Lutgen said.

In another car garage, Liz Flores switched on a Honda CRV which also had its converter stolen.

“So it looks like a tractor-trailer,” she said.

Flores and her husband Jose own the store, where every day 10 cars come for converter replacements. They say thieves will hopefully avoid cars with a rebar cage

“I highly recommend the rebar cage. It’s been super effective, it’s very hard to cut,” she said.

Jose Flores said: “They know they’re going to take more time, that’s one. And two, they know they’re going to make more noise.”

You’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars for a replacement converter, plus another $300-800 for a roll cage.

But if a thief were to remove the cage, which the couple say is fairly unlikely, the insurance would have to cover it.

Thieves are everywhere, but the police are breaking through.

Stolen catalytic converters spilled out of the trunk of an Infiniti that police chased along the peninsula at 3 a.m. Friday before it crashed on the 101 freeway in San Francisco.

Cutting devices also filled the back seat. A passenger was arrested, but the driver fled, according to South San Francisco police, recovering 14 stolen converters, a portable saw and a jack.

South San Francisco, San Bruno and Colma police and the CHP worked together on the second pursuit and crash involving catalytic converter thieves in just over a week.

Converter thieves could face potential jail time. The other day, a man was sentenced to 32 months in jail after a judge rejected his argument that it was a ‘victimless crime’.

There could also be much more serious implications for thieves. Early Friday, a suspect believed to have been involved in a theft of a catalytic converter was shot and killed by the owner of the car near Arkansas and Shasta in Vallejo.

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