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By Zachary Chen, Nov. 9, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona’s University Police Department has arrested a man allegedly in the process of stealing a catalytic converter in Lot B on Oct. 31.

At about 8:03 p.m. Sunday, University Police Officer Gregory Brown was responding to the noise of metal being cut while on his patrol when he spotted the suspect underneath a Toyota Tacoma in the process of stealing a catalytic converter.

Darren Loo | The Poly Post

After Officer Brown identified himself, the suspect fled the scene, leading to a foot pursuit running through the university track and field. The suspect was later arrested following a grid search in collaboration with the California Highway Patrol and Pomona Police. He was found in possession of a saw and numerous cutting blades that were in a stolen vehicle parked next to the victim’s car.

“The suspect revealed a lot of things we knew to be the case for these types of crimes,” said Interim University Police Chief David Hall. “He was able to average multiple victims every day and did it to support his drug habit.”

This arrest follows University Police releasing a crime alert in September to all students, faculty and staff detailing the pattern of catalytic converter thefts around the campus.

“Although we caught one person, this is going to be an ongoing thing,” said Brown. “They love to target large parking lots; they can drive around and canvas the area and pick out whichever vehicle they want. It’s almost like going to a candy shop, they have many options.”

Despite being booked on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, the suspect was released on citation by the Pomona Police Department before Officer Brown was able to complete a full report.

Since July, Cal Poly Pomona has seen 16 cases of catalytic converter thefts throughout the campus’ parking lots with the main targets being vehicles with a higher ground clearance.

Prior to this arrest, the last occurrence of a theft was on Oct. 9, when a student made a report of suspicious activity occurring in Lot Q. Despite University Police being able to catch the thief at that moment, the catalytic converter was later recovered and returned by the West Covina Police Department due to an engraving of a license plate number the student had made on the converter prior to having it stolen. This was the first instance where the West Covina Police Department was able to return a stolen catalytic converter to its owner.

Chief Hall emphasized the impact of community-based policing and the important role it serves for dealing with similar crimes.

“Both of these incidents are directly related to what we are trying to achieve with community-based policing,” said Hall.  “The community being involved with us, seeing and reporting in the first incident on (Oct. 9). Our officers focusing their attention on the campus is what occurred in the second incident. Both of those are directly in line to what we are asking both the community and our officers to do in order to engage in community-based policing.”

With the catalytic converter thefts showing no signs of going away, preventative measures are highly encouraged for members of the campus community who look to keep their catalytic converters safe. Some measures include:

  • Having a mechanic secure a metal shield around the converter.
  • Welding the catalytic converter down to the vehicle.
  • Engraving a VIN number onto the catalytic converter for identification.
  • Raising the sensitivity of the alarm that goes off when a locked car gets touched by thieves.

“We’re able to meet with students and update them on what to look out for,” said Brown. “We have additional training on what to look out for and when to call for help, and I think it’s good to pass it on to them. The public are our eyes and ears at times because we can’t be everywhere.”

Campus community members are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the University Police Department at 909-869-3070.

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