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Catalytic converters thefts are on the rise, and few neighborhoods have been left unscathed by thieves sliding under cars and trucks with their saws.

To combat the issue, police agencies in Orange County are teaming up and helping drivers etch license plate numbers on their vehicles’ catalytic converters to deter the thieves. 

Police say exhaust emission control devices are attracting thieves because they contain precious metals and can be scrapped for a quick profit.

“Theft of catalytic converters is on the rise, it’s on a significant increase,” said Mario Escamilla, public information officer for the Buena Park Police Department. “The main reasons that we know why these converters are sought out by criminals is that they have precious metals inside of them. Some of them contain rhodium, which can be $25,000 an ounce.”

Buena Park police, along with the La Palma and Cypress police departments, hosted a catalytic converter etching event over the weekend as a way to help drivers deter thieves.

“What we’re trying to do is take a preventative approach and etch the license plate number assigned to the vehicle into the catalytic converter so that when law enforcement comes across,” said Escamilla. 

While a stolen catalytic converter can fetch a few hundred dollars at a metal recycler, victims pay an average of $1,000 to replace it, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

O.C. District Attorney Todd Spitzer said one of the difficulties of investigating these crimes is linking a specific stolen catalytic converter to a specific vehicle.

“There’s no identification on the catalytic converter itself,” Spitzer said. “The more cars that can be etched with a license plate onto the catalytic converter, the easier it will be for us to prove in a court of law when an individual is charged.”

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

  • Park in a well-lit area or inside a garage
  • Consider installing motion-activated lights around your home
  • Engrave or etch your vehicle’s VIN or license plate number onto your catalytic converter
  • Consider purchasing a catalytic converter clamp