By Anna Giles

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) — Roseville police are cracking down on catalytic converter thieves.

Officers are battling a surge in the stealthy crime, which is claiming victims all over the Sacramento region. They’re putting boots on the ground, trying to stop the low level of what’s become a large criminal network.

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Roseville Police spokesperson Rob Baquera said thieves make the steal in three minutes and the converter often ends up in another country.

On Wednesday night, a Roseville resident said he witnessed and filmed a catalytic converter theft happening at a hospital parking garage. Police were able to stop the thief — a rare occurrence.

“It’s like, way to hit somebody when they’re down,” said Jillian Saliba, A Roseville resident.

Saliba knows the feeling. Someone stole the catalytic converter from her Prius right outside her home earlier this year. She decided not to call the police.

“We just thought there’s so many going on in Roseville, what could they possibly do for us,” Saliba said.

But with thefts surging, Roseville Police are promising a presence. They’ve had 90 thefts in just the last two months, which is double the rate compared to last year.

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“We will often canvass neighborhoods for video surveillance for cars coming and going from neighborhoods,” Baquera said.

So why are these thefts happening? Baquera said it starts with a street thief who makes the actual steal. That thief then sells to a middle man, who’s then working with a high-level dealer. The dealers are usually shipping the stolen catalytic converters overseas.

“This is a very large and connected criminal network that is working in these catalytic converters. Ultimately it comes down to the precious metal that is inside the catalytic converter,” Baquera said.

The price of those metals has quadrupled in the last five years. According to a New York Times report, demand is particularly high in China, a country that is battling stricter emission restrictions and needs access to the precious metals in converters

It’s a problem that starts local and goes global.

“Do your part to be a good witness. Install video surveillance around your house,” Baquera said.

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Neighbors like Jillian invested in multiple cameras. Unfortunately, none of them caught her thief in action.