Barstow police arrested two men and a woman earlier this week who they believe cut and stole at least four catalytic converters off vehicles.
Mojave residents Michael Perez, 35, Brian Hernandez, 30, and 25-year-old Cassondra Scism were booked into county jail on various charges, including grand theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime, authorities said.
All three had been released on bail as of Saturday.
The trio were arrested Tuesday after a city officer responded that morning at about 1:20 a.m. to the 200 block of North Yucca Avenue.
The caller told the officer she had heard a "loud cutting noise" outside her home and saw three people standing around a neighbor's vehicle, the Barstow Police Department said.
The three people then got into a white Kia Soul and drove away.
The officer checked under the neighbor's vehicle and found the catalytic converter was sawed off and missing.
The officer later spotted the Kia in the 500 block of E. Main Street and pulled the car over. As he walked up to the vehicle, he saw four catalytic converters in the Kia's cargo compartment, officials said.
Police also found an electric saw, bolt cutters and car jack. One of the converters found matched the neighbor's vehicle, according to authorities.
Catalytic converters are anti-pollution devices prized by thieves because they require few tools to remove them. The vehicle part can also fetch several hundred to several thousand dollars in scrap metal or on the black market due to the precious metals inside.
With the values of platinum, palladium and rhodium rising, thefts of the devices have been increasing also.
In one year, reports of converter theft more than quadrupled from 3,389 in 2019 to 14,433 in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
State Farm reported converter theft had risen close to 293% nationwide from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 based on the number of claims filed compared to the year before.
California led the country with the most thefts reported with more than 3 out of 10 claims being filed there.
Daily Press reporter Martin Estacio may be reached at 760-955-5358 or MEstacio@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_mestacio.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: 3 catalytic converter thieves arrested in Barstow, authorities say