On Saturday, April 3, 2021, at around 2 a.m., an Oxnard officer patrolling on Del Norte Bl. near Sturgis Rd. heard what sounded like metal being cut. When the officer went to investigate, a grey mini-van quickly sped out of a parking lot. The officer drove after the van and stopped the vehicle.

The driver was unlicensed and the two passengers were on probation for theft charges. Inside the vehicle, the officers found power saws, used saw blades, and other cutting tools and nine freshly cut catalytic converters.

The officers checked the area where the cutting noise had been heard and found several trucks with catalytic converters cut from their exhaust systems.

The three men, Anibal Oregon, 32-yers-old, Julio Nambo, 27-years-old, and Fernando Esparza, 37-years-old, Bakersfield residents, were arrested and booked in Ventura County Jail for their alleged involvement in the thefts.

Catalytic converters are used to reduce vehicle emissions and thieves target these because of the rise in the value of the precious metals contained inside them, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The stolen items are then sold online and can fetch high prices. For victims, the repairs can cost additional thousands. Trucks, fleet vans, and other vehicles with a higher ground clearance are especially targeted because the catalytic converters are easier to access.

These are some tips to try and prevent catalytic converter thefts:

  • Park your vehicle inside a secure garage, secured yard, or parked in a way to prevent access to the undercarriage (especially for fleet vehicles).
  • If parking in a driveway, be sure to have motion lights or continuous lights illuminating your driveway as a deterrent.
  • If available, be sure to park in areas that are covered by video surveillance.
  • A car alarm equipped with a vehicle motion detector will also be helpful.
  • Mark or engrave your vehicle’s catalytic converter with the vehicle license plate or VIN number, or with brightly colored, high-temperature paint. This will help law enforcement track a converter back to your vehicle in the event of a theft.
  • Check with your insurance company regarding catalytic converter theft as many insurance companies do cover such a theft under comprehensive coverage plans, as the catalytic converter is an OEM vehicle part.
  • There are also several options for anti-theft devices from companies such as the “CatClamp” and “CatStrap” that offer devices that surround or bolt onto the converters, or there are covers and shield type devices from “Cat Security” and various others, that are made for specific vehicle models and bolt in place, protecting the catalytic converter.
  • If suspicious activity or crimes in progress are seen, be sure to call 911 immediately. If your catalytic converter is stolen, you will know as soon as the vehicle is started, as it will sound like there’s no muffler at all. It is still ok to drive your vehicle directly to a muffler shop/dealership for repairs. If possible, take photos of the damages prior to repairing the vehicle.

The Oxnard Police Department is actively working on these investigations and asking anyone with information about these thefts, to contact Oxnard Police Detective Meagan Tobey at (805) 385-7755.