ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV)-Law enforcement across San Diego's north county are warning residents about an increase in armed catalytic converter thieves.
The entire county has seen an explosion in the thefts in recent months, but the crimes seem to be getting more aggressive.
Friday morning, thieves stole a catalytic converter from a car parked in a driveway on Summersong Lane in the Village Green neighborhood of Encinitas.
Sheriff's investigators say four guys in two cars stole the catalytic converter, but came back and attacked a man who lives in the house. He was standing in the driveway using his cell phone. He told deputies the thieves were armed with either bats or some sort of metal club. They stole his phone. He suffered minor injuries.
Police believe the same group may be responsible for similar thefts in Oceanside. Recent Surveillance video shows they may be armed.
"We’ve seen similar weapons, what looks to be a metal club or bat, firearms, BB guns. We're definitely seeing an increase. They work in groups," said Jennifer Atenza Public Information Officer for Ocean Police Department.
Natalie Settoon has lived in Encinitas off Santa Fe for 10 years. She never worried about safety, until the last year.
"I’ve always been able to sleep with doors open, at this point the Ring camera consistently goes off when it's not supposed to," said Settoon.
Just a couple of hours before the catalytic converter theft on Summersong, several license plates were stolen off of cars parked in Settoon's neighborhood. It's unknown if there's a connection.
Oceanside Police recently recovered ten stolen catalytic converters and returned them to their owners. According to police, in Oceanside alone, the thefts are up 700 percent in the last 2 years; 400 percent across San Diego County. The thieves steal the automotive parts because they contain expensive metals. They're often sold to scrap yards.
Police are urging residents not to confront the thieves.
"When people hear tools being used in the middle of the night, please call," said Atenza.
"Catalytic converters are replaceable people aren’t."