Two transient men from Richmond have been arrested for allegedly stealing catalytic converters at the Union City BART station, transit agency police said Wednesday in Oakland.
BART police Lt. Terence McCarty said police don't know if the two men are connected to a string of other recent catalytic converter thefts at East Bay stations but he believes the arrests will "decrease the social disorder we see in our system."
Speaking at a news conference at BART police headquarters at the Lake Merritt station in Oakland, McCarty said Michael Tillis, 47, and Cedric Choyce, 56, were arrested after an alert station agent at the Union City station called police at 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday to report that he saw a man who was under a parked car in the station's parking lot and appeared to be working on the car.
McCarty said a few minutes later the man removed an object from underneath the car in the parking lot and got into a vehicle with another suspect and they drove away.
The station agent provided police with a description of the suspects as well as a description and the license plate number of their car and responding officers located the suspects' car, stopped it and arrested the two men, according to McCarty.
Officers who searched the car found three catalytic converters and the tools that were used to take them, McCarty said.
Tillis and Choyce were arrested on suspicion of grand theft, possession of burglary tools and receiving stolen property, McCarty said.
Tillis also was arrested for allegedly violating his probation for a petty theft conviction, according to McCarty.
Tillis and Choyce are both being held at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $60,000 bail and are scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward on Thursday afternoon.
BART spokesman Jim Allison said catalytic converters, which help control emissions, were stolen from four cars at the North Berkeley station on Feb. 23 and there have been similar thefts at other East Bay stations in recent weeks.
McCarty said suspects steal catalytic converters because they contain precious metals such as platinum and palladium and can be resold for about $150 each.
He said suspects especially target vehicles that are high from the ground, such as SUVs, because it's easier to take the converters from such vehicles.
McCarty said catalytic converters can be stolen in a minute or less so BART police advise transit agency patrons to try to park in areas that have heavy foot traffic, such as near station entrances or access roads, and in areas that are well lit.
McCarty said cars that have their catalytic converters stolen can still be driven but sound different and emit more exhaust than usual.