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Nineteen people were arrested and $750,000 worth of catalytic converters were recovered in an operation targeting several locations in Los Angeles on Wednesday, officials said.

There’s been a spike in thefts of catalytic converters from cars throughout the region.

In the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction alone, reports of catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed 400% in 2020 compared to the year before, according to the agency.

Thieves target the vehicle exhaust emission control device because it contains precious metals and can be scrapped for quick profit, sheriff’s Sgt. Keith Greene explained.

Certain cars like the first generation Prius and the Ford F-250 have been targeted more than others in L.A. County, likely because their catalytic converters are known to contain more precious metal, Greene said. Larger cars also tend to be a target because they usually have larger catalytic converters.

The sergeant is in the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Crime Impact team, which led Wednesday’s search warrant operation with help from other stations.

Warrants were served at four different locations in the city of L.A. that were tied to catalytic converter thefts in the Santa Clarita Valley and other county areas.

Deputies recovered 250 catalytic converters, together valued at around $750,000, in addition to one “ghost” handgun and about $100,000, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The investigation is ongoing and there are suspects still outstanding.

Catalytic converter thieves usually use saws to get the devices from the cars, and it makes a loud noise, so it’s easy to spot, according to Greene.

“The only way we can really combat this is with help from citizens,” Greene said, urging residents to report it if they notice someone’s converter being stolen.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station at 661-255-1121. Those who wish to submit an anonymous tips can call LA Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Here are some tips from the Sheriff’s Department on how to protect from having your vehicle’s catalytic converter stolen:

  • Park in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras
  • Weld the bolts on your catalytic converter shut
  • Engrave or etch the license plate number onto your catalytic converter
  • Always report suspicious activity