Catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley are up about three times what they were to start the year, according to police and community reports.
In July, Berkeley tallied at least 56 catalytic converter thefts in the city, according to preliminary police data released this week in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry.
That followed a steady increase that started in February.
And the rise this year is part of a longer trend: The number of catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley more than tripled from 2019-20, police said early last year, when theft activity continued to be high.
Last week, a reader asked Berkeleyside to help spread the word about a recent rash of catalytic converter thefts hitting the neighborhood.
“There has been a wave of catalytic converter thefts in the North Berkeley area this week, including one of our cars on Buena at California. Nextdoor posts show these thieves have also been in the North Berkeley BART station area, Acton and Hearst, and other areas,” she wrote. “We filed a police report as have others. May be good to let the public know to be on alert. This is an organized gang with portable jacks and the cost to repair/replace is upwards of $3000 and does not affect only older model cars.”
On Tuesday, BPD told Berkeleyside the thefts are happening all over Berkeley, not just in one neighborhood.
In recent weeks, a pair of catalytic converter thieves fired a gun at two workers on Fourth Street who interrupted their theft attempt. No one was wounded, but a security guard said he had to duck when a bullet went flying by his head.
On Tuesday, police in Fremont said they had shut down a major buyer of stolen catalytic converters in that city, which they hoped would tamp down on the crime.
In October, Berkeley police put out a brief advisory on YouTube to help raise awareness about catalytic converter theft in the city and how to help prevent it.
“The thieves are after the precious metals that can typically be found in these devices,” BPD said. “This is a trend that is occurring all throughout our region.”
Police said it takes just a few minutes to cut off a catalytic converter.
They said residents can try to make it harder for thieves by buying a catalytic converter protection device, parking in well-lit areas or, if possible, parking inside a garage.
People who must park in driveways may want to consider a security camera system or motion-activated light, police said.