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Catalytic converter thefts are getting more brazen, Land Park residents say

Cell phone video shared between neighbors in Land Park shows a person walking their dog and catching a man trying to steal a catalytic converter

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Land Park neighborhood in the South Sacramento area is home to long-time resident Gregg Dorr — and it still is — but he says he finds himself having to keep his guard up more often.

"I just feel like Land Park — our neighborhood has been a little bit left to the wolves here now. There's just not a lot of protection and the police are underfunded," he said. "Unfortunately it leads to things like catalytic converter thefts, porch pirates and everything else."

Earlier in March, neighbors circulated a video shared by Tim Wehling purportedly showing his afternoon dog walk taking a drastic turn when he comes across a green Ford Focus parked in the middle of the street.

As he walks past the unoccupied vehicle, Wehling's dog starts barking at a man underneath a car parked next to the Ford Focus. That's when the man rolls out from beneath the car and gets back inside his Ford Focus to drive off.

Community response

Land Park community leader and advocate Stephanie Duncan says police were notified of the March 12 incident, but they can only do so much with limited resources and enforcement powers.

"They would love to do their job as they did before the passage of Proposition 47, but they're limited in what they're able to do," said Duncan. "And so people think that they're not doing their job, you know, and it's certainly not their fault. It's the fault of the whole system."

Proposition 47, dubbed by supporters as the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act," was passed by California voters in 2014 and reduced the criminal penalty for some nonviolent crimes previously charged as felonies.

One of the crimes that went from a felony to misdemeanor was grand theft under $950.

According to data analytics company J.D. Power, the average catalytic converter ranges between $800 and $1,200 depending on the vehicle’s make and model.

"So we've got a lot of people now on our streets who would normally be in jail or prison," said Duncan.

Dorr recently installed doorbell cameras not only to try and protect his own property, but to help his surrounding community if they are ever hit by thieves.

Sacramento Police Department officials said they encourage neighbors to share information with each other about about crime trends.

Officials also urge community members to continue reporting catalytic converter thefts, as they have officers dedicated to following-up on such thefts.

Neighbor Kellie Swayne told ABC10 she hadn't noticed catalytic converter thefts in her part of Land Park until she witnessed one firsthand.

She says she heard noises outside her house at 3 a.m. and stepped out to see what the racket was...

"By the time I stepped out onto my porch, my neighbor's Prius that was parked on the street had been jacked up from the driver's side and there was a guy underneath with the power tool," said Swayne. "I flashed my flashlight on him and they took off, but unfortunately there was no license plate."

She says police arrived on the scene within 30 minutes of reporting the theft.

"I suppose that's as good as you can expect right now," said Swayne.

Sacramento police officials told ABC10 they advise people report what they're witnessing rather than confront people when they suspect a crime is in progress.

The department's Catalytic Converter Theft Information and Prevention page provides more information and crime prevention tips for community members.

WATCH MORE: Video | Dog interrupts catalytic converter theft in Sacramento neighborhood

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