The recent scare of stolen catalytic converters in Santa Barbara has kept citizens and police alike alert of such thefts. And in the early hours of Tuesday morning, that vigilance paid off: three thieves were caught in the act.
At about 3:16 a.m. on July 29, Santa Barbara police officers responded to a call reporting that people had been fiddling with the exhaust system of a Toyota 4-Runner in the 200 block of Mohawk Drive. When officers arrived, they saw a red vehicle parked and still running next to the Toyota and a person walking away from another 4-Runner parked nearby.
The person got into the car and began driving as soon as he saw the police, but officers soon stopped the vehicle, then arrested all three men in the car. It appeared that the men had already had a busy night – officers found five converters in the trunk, along with the necessary burglary tools.
Police arrested Los Angelenos Jose Eduardo Elvir, 26, and Rafael Perez Marquez, 20, along with Francisco Gegan Torres, 33, from Las Vegas. Elvir was admitted to Santa Barbara County Jail (SBCJ) for grand theft, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property, conspiracy, giving false information to a peace officer, and violation of parole. Torres and Marquez were also admitted to SBCJ for grand theft, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property, and conspiracy.
According to spokesman Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte, Santa Barbara police do not yet know if these men are linked to the rampant theft throughout the last two months. He said that since Elvir and Marquez are both from Los Angeles, it is probable that they were headed back there with the converters and the precious metals they contain.
The SBPD would like to encourage citizens to park in driveways and garages rather than the streets if possible. Additionally, they would like to remind people to call the police as soon as possible if any suspicious behavior is observed.