Catalytic converter crooks cool off crime wave
After a wave of catalytic converter thefts rolled through the Sonoma Valley for two consecutive weekends, the tide appears to have turned, at least for now. No new thefts were reported for last weekend.
Counting a theft reported May 18 that took place sometime during the preceding week, a total of 20 of the exhaust devices were stolen in the Valley, mostly from 1990s and early 2000s Toyota pickup trucks and SUVs.
Those crimes reflect a nationwide surge in catalytic converter thefts that mirrors the sudden increase in value for three precious metals - platinum, palladium and rhodium - that act as catalysts to reduce toxic emissions from hot exhaust gasses. Platinum has hit recent record highs of more than $2,300 an ounce and rhodium has reached about $9,500 an ounce.
That means thieves can get up to $200 for a catalytic converter from unscrupulous metal dealers who recycle the precious materials. Replacing the devices can cost as much as $1,200.
Toyota trucks and SUVs are popular because they have a high ground clearance allowing thieves to scoot underneath with wrenches or battery-powered saws without having to jack the vehicles up. A seasoned thief can un-bolt or saw off a catalytic converter in less than two minutes.
One solution to the problem is being offered by a company called CatClamp that sells a $150 steel cable cage that secures the converter to the vehicle chassis, making it too time-consuming to easily steal. Another partial solution is welding on the heads of attachment bolts, but that won't stop a power saw.
The last Valley catalytic converter theft reported was in the 18700 block of Wagele Drive in, where the owner hadn't started his Toyota Tacoma since parking it on Friday, May 13. When he started it on the morning of May 18, he noticed his pickup sounded a lot louder than when he last drove it.
In other incidents reported to the Sheriff's Valley substation:
Tuesday, May 17:
9:30 a.m. - Say, don't I know you? A deputy on patrol in the area of Arnold Drive and Craig Avenue recognized an approaching motorist, knew the man was on probation and recalled he didn't have a license. After pulling over the 24-year-old El Verano resident, the deputy's suspicions were confirmed. The man had no license, was on probation and was, therefore, supposed to obey all laws. Since driving without a license is breaking the law, the errant motorist was cited and released for driving without a license and violating the terms of his probation.
2:50 p.m. - Dude, where's my Wii? A couple living in the 18000 block of Greger Street reported a burglary that occurred the day before. Someone apparently entered through an unlocked back door and helped themselves to the couple's Wii electronic game. The husband had noticed some electronic equipment had been unplugged the day before, but didn't think anything of it until his wife wanted to play with the Wii.
4:08 p.m. - Dude, where's my ID? A resident in the 13400 block of Gibson Street in Glen Ellen reported that someone had apparently used her personal information and obtained a credit card in her name. The identity thief ran up a tab of more than $713 at stores in Indiana. The victim called the bank and canceled the fraudulently obtained card.
10:10 p.m. -Threaten wife, go to jail. Sheriff's deputies were called to a domestic disturbance in the 600 block of Walnut Avenue when a man's wife reported that her husband was intoxicated and she was afraid he would hurt himself.
When deputies arrived they found the man lying in bed and therefore had no reason to detain him, so they left. Shortly thereafter, they returned to the residence when a neighbor called to say the husband was yelling at his wife. This time the deputies heard the man threaten his wife, and that was enough to arrest him. Deputies also discovered that when the wife tried to call for help, the man threw her cellphone against a wall. He was booked on felony charges of making terrorist threats and damaging a wireless device.
Thursday, May 19:
4 p.m. - Hit a woman, go to jail. A 23-year-old Boyes Hot Springs man went to jail in the aftermath of a three-way domestic dispute. Sheriff's deputies, investigating a domestic violence incident in the 18100 block of Riverside Drive, were told by the victim that she asked the suspect, who was also the father of her 3-year-old child, to leave the residence at about midnight. He returned later in the day to retrieve some clothing and paperwork but instead got into a verbal confrontation with the woman's older son that ended up in a driveway fistfight. In the midst of the argument, the suspect grabbed the victim by the hair and hit her in the arm. The man was arrested for felony threats, domestic battery and a probation violation.
Friday, May 20:
7:03 p.m. - Throw a glass, go to jail. In yet another domestic violence incident, a 41-year-old Boyes Hot Springs man was arrested after a row with his estranged wife in the 17600 block of Middlefield Road. The man was apparently in the house to visit one of his daughters when his estranged wife told him to get out. An argument ensued and the suspect pushed his estranged wife. She tried to walk away, but he picked up a glass and threw it at her. While he missed the victim, the glass did shatter a window. The woman walked out of the house and called deputies who arrested the man on charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm, vandalism and spousal battery.
Saturday, May 21:
2:56 a.m. - Can't speak coherently, go to jail. Deputies responding to a report of a prowler, in the 100 block of West Thomson Avenue, found a man laying face down in the driveway. The man exhibited the usual signs of intoxication including slurred speech. He was asked questions in both English and Spanish and couldn't form a coherent sentence in either language. The 22-year-old Boyes Hot Springs resident was arrested on charges of public intoxication. His bunk at the county jail was most likely more comfortable than the driveway.
10:50 p.m. - Dude, that's not your car. An 18-year-old Sonoma resident also ended up with a jail berth after he was discovered by a neighbor standing drunk next to a vehicle in the 300 block of Denmark Street. The neighbor watched as the teen tried to enter the vehicle, which wasn't his. The teen tried to tell the neighbor he lived at the address, but the neighbor knew better. The teen then took off, but the neighbor followed in his vehicle and let deputies know where the youth was. Deputies arrived and arrested the teen on charges of tampering with a vehicle and public intoxication.