Sheriff’s Department warns of crime in San Marcos area

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SAN MARCOS, Calif. – The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is warning of an upsurge in catalytic converter thefts recently in the San Marcos area.

Just last week, deputies arrested a group of three thieves caught attempting to steal catalytic converters on the 700 block of Lupine Drive. At least 4 other catalytic converters were found in their possession.

“Most people have no idea how much it will cost until it happens to them,” said Victor Banuelos, owner of Centric Auto Repair in San Marcos.

A catalytic converter thief can be under your car, in and out with the precious metal in minutes, and the victim is stuck with an expensive repair.

“I’ll give you an example, a Prius. Right now they cost around $4,500 for parts and installation,” Banuelos said.

It’s a crime that’s been on the rise throughout San Diego County and across the state, with California lawmakers even proposing laws to crack down on catalytic converter theft.

Banuelos says his shop used to fix maybe one stolen catalytic converter a year, but now it’s become a weekly occurrence.

The sheriff’s department has held wine number burning events and there are also new security measures, such as installing an alarm or shield.

“It will take over an hour for the thief to get in versus about three minutes to get under your car, remove the catalytic converter and run,” Banuelos said.

Authorities say the most recent suspects in San Marcos were not local to the area. Although the department has received about a dozen reports of catalytic converter thefts in the area over the past 90 days, Banuelos believes there are many more unreported cases.

“Most of the time people don’t even know what happened to them,” he says. “They bring it in and once they find out they don’t even report it because they’re already in the store. They usually make the decision to fix it or buy a new car.

Banuelos says the price of what thieves can get for the metal inside a catalytic converter is also rising. What used to sell for around $800 can now cost over $1,000.

The Sheriff’s Department asks anyone who sees suspicious activity to call the non-emergency line at 858-565-5200.

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