Catalytic converter thieves with guns confronted a Berkeley resident out for a dog walk Thursday morning, authorities said.
According to BPD, the man crossed paths with the culprits near Bancroft Way and McGee Avenue in central Berkeley as they tried to steal a catalytic converter.
One of the men brandished a rifle at the resident and the other pulled out a handgun, Berkeley police said.
The pair fled the area "at a high rate of speed" in a white Maserati SUV with paper plates, authorities said.
An officer spotted the SUV but it took off immediately, police said.
The incident would not fall within the city's vehicle pursuit policy, which requires some kind of violent crime or risk of serious bodily harm to initiate a chase.
The presence of guns during catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley has become increasingly common since last year, authorities have said.
In total, there have been more than 230 catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley already this year, according to BPD's Transparency Hub data portal.
That's an average of about two catalytic converter thefts in Berkeley each day.
That's about on par with last year's record high of 846 catalytic converter thefts throughout the year, which worked out to an average of about 2.3 a day.
The issue has been a growing problem in Berkeley and around the nation since 2017.
In 2018, Berkeley had just 35 catalytic converter thefts the entire year. That number jumped to 186 in 2019 and has skyrocketed since.
In 2020 and 2021, Berkeley had nearly 600 catalytic converter thefts each year.
As reported last fall by the Wall Street Journal, nationwide, "The National Insurance Crime Bureau tallied some 52,000 stolen catalytic converters in 2021, three times as high as in 2020 and a more than 10-fold increase from 2019. The devices fetch hundreds of dollars for criminals, but can cost several thousand dollars to replace, according to police. Once stolen, the devices are typically sold to scrap dealers or are taken apart and melted down in illegal smelting operations."