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Why Are People Stealing Catalytic Converters and What Can Be Done to Stop It? Local Experts Explain

Published on Friday, August 12, 2022 | 6:16 am

Catalytic converters have become a hot commodity for thieves because of their value and lack of identifying markings, which makes it hard for police to identify victims and successfully apprehend and prosecute criminals.

Made up of precious metals, catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that converts pollutants to less toxic materials. 

In Pasadena, catalytic converter theft is on the rise. According to Detective Jack Preston of the Pasadena Police Department (PPD) from January to June there were 114 catalytic converter thefts reported to Pasaden a police.

The highest number of thefts was recorded in January with 29 catalytic converters reported stolen.

“A catalytic converter contains about an average of three to seven grams of platinum, two to seven grams of Pallium and one to two grams of Rhodium. So that’s what these catalytic converters are about and the reason that the thieves are going after them is for the precious metals inside,” Preston told Pasadena Now. 

As of July, Preston said the price of Platinum is at $1,000 dollars per ounce. Pallium is trading at $2,000 per ounce while Rhodium is trading  for $15,000 per ounce. 

Thefts of catalytic converters in Pasadena more than doubled in 2021 from 117 reported catalytic converter thefts in 2020 to 257, according to the data provided by Lt. William Grisafe of the PPD last April. Toyota Prius (2nd generation) Honda Accords (years 2000-2008) and Honda Elements are the most targeted cars for catalytic converter theft, according to Grisafe. 

Michael Kefales from Pasadena-based JK Volvo said replacement of the catalytic converter would cost anywhere between $1,000 and $8,000, depending on the model of the vehicle and how many need to be replaced. 

“Some cars have four catalytic converters, some have two, some only have one,” Kefales explained. 

One way drivers could protect their catalytic converters from being stolen is to park their cars in a closed garage at home, according to  Preston. 

When parking in public places, it would be best to choose areas where there’s a lot of foot traffic. 

It is also recommended to have a cage welded onto the converter itself and install car alarm system that’s sensitive to motion or vibrations. 

Preston admitted it’s difficult to make arrests as “there’s just very little to no evidence of the catalytic converter theft.” According to him, the PPD deployed five teams of undercover officers out on the streets to deter catalytic converter thefts. 

Previously, the PPD has also offered free catalytic converter etching. Vehicle identification numbers are etched onto catalytic converters, so that if a person’s catalytic converter is stolen and recovered by law enforcement, the engraved number will provide investigators with information about the victim.

Preston believes stiffer penalties would be a good deterrent to the crime. 

“Right now, honestly, in the state of California property crimes are not taken very seriously once it gets to the litigation part of it. We were citing people out on tickets who were caught and arrested for the theft of catalytic converters.” 

“I think it would be nice if California took property crimes a little more seriously. And when we do catch them, you know, we could keep them in jail a little longer, that would be nice. Holding people accountable for their crimes is, it works, and that doesn’t seem to be happening the way it should.” 

Preston also believes manufacturers should already step in.

“Having the manufacturers change the way they place these catalytic converters and not making them so easy to get to would probably drastically reduce this crime,” he said.

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