Thieves take catalytic converters from parking garage


Michael Combs

The Zumwalt Parking Garage’s lower levels are now blocked off due to catalytic converter thefts.

Hana Seals, Reporter

Three suspects are still at large in an ongoing investigation pertaining to two catalytic converter thefts from cars parked in the Santa Rosa Junior College Zumwalt Parking Garage, Santa Rosa District Police said in an email released to students Sept. 29.

The first theft occurred during the afternoon of Sept. 19 on the first floor of the parking garage. The car’s owner found the catalytic converter stolen upon their return. Suspects attempted a second unsuccessful theft in the same area midday Sept. 29. A nearby student interrupted the crime in progress, and the three suspects dressed in black with face coverings fled in a black sedan.

The student witness called the District Police emergency line and officers responded within minutes and conducted a thorough search of the surrounding area, but were unable to locate the suspects or their vehicle.

“The information as far as the outstanding vehicle and suspects has gone countywide. All law enforcement in the county have a description of the vehicle so everybody is looking for it at this point,” Chief of District Police Robert Brownlee said.

Brownlee said catalytic converter thefts are not unusual in the Sonoma County area, but these two cases are unique because they didn’t occur at night.

“The fact that they are doing this in broad daylight in a parking garage where people are walking in and out is a pretty brazen crime,” Brownlee said.

Catalytic converters filter a vehicle’s exhaust to reduce harmful carbon emissions. The converters contain many valuable precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. Stealing these converters is very straightforward; some thefts can happen within two minutes.

Police are increasing patrols in the parking garage and using multiple security cameras to monitor the area, according to Brownlee. Officers have also temporarily blocked off parking on the bottom floor and are encouraging students to avoid the area.

District Police encourage all SRJC community members to remain cautious, consider anti-theft options, use the upper floors of the parking garage, and know the location of the closest emergency phone stations. Students should program the dispatch number — (707) 527-1000 — into their cellphones.

If you see someone loitering around a vehicle in the parking garage, do not approach. If possible, watch them from a distance but always make sure to put your own safety first.

The investigation is ongoing. District Police encourage SRJC community members to call (707) 527-1000 immediately if they see any suspicious activity.