Several men brandished a gun at a community member while stealing a catalytic converter on Fifth Street in West Berkeley on Wednesday afternoon, authorities report.
The incident took place just before 2:40 p.m. in the 2400 block of Fifth Street just north of Dwight Way, the Berkeley Police Department said in response to a Berkeley Scanner inquiry.
The community member ran outside after hearing the sound of sawing, police said, and was threatened by a man with a handgun, said Officer Byron White, BPD spokesman.
Police said there were three suspects who were all described as Hispanic.
One was in his 30s, 5 feet 9 with a heavy build, and wore a black mask, black hoodie and sunglasses as well as a cap or hat of some kind.
Another had a similar description but wore a gray hoodie.
And the third man, who brandished the gun, appeared 25-30 years and was thin with short hair and a black shirt.
They made off with a catalytic converter from a Prius.
The men left in a silver or gray sedan without license plates, White said. They were able to flee before officers arrived.
The time of day the incident occurred was somewhat unusual, police said, as most catalytic converter thefts generally take place in the darkness or early-morning hours.
There have already been 134 catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley this year, which appears to be keeping pace with last year when there were 845.
But last year saw a steep increase from prior years, according to data from BPD's Transparency Hub.
The issue has been a growing problem in Berkeley and around the nation since 2017.