In an effort to deter thieves, some law enforcement agencies in Southern California have been helping drivers etch license plate numbers on their vehicles’ catalytic converters.
The exhaust emission control devices are increasingly being cut from vehicles and stolen because they contain precious metals and can be scrapped for quick profit.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed 400% in 2020.
Earlier this month, 19 people were arrested and $750,000 worth of catalytic converters were recovered in an operation targeting several locations in Los Angeles.
The Sheriff’s Department’s different stations have recently been hosting “Catalytic Converter Etching Events,” where drivers can get their license plate numbers etched onto the car parts to make them easier to track if stolen.
In Ventura County, the Camarillo Police Department teamed up with several local auto repair, tire shops and oil change businesses that residents can go to to etch on their license plate number and paint a sheriff’s star on their catalytic converters, free of charge when bringing in their vehicles for service.
“If a catalytic converter is stolen, this will help law enforcement or a scrap yard in recognizing that the catalytic converter as stolen based on the markings,” Camarillo police said.
Toyota Prius, Honda Accord and Ford Excursion are among the vehicles that have been most frequently targeted for catalytic converter thefts in the region, officials said.
In San Bernardino on March 12, a driver who fled a police traffic stop led San Bernardino officers to discover 150 stolen catalytic converters, resulting in the arrest of three men believed to be part of a “large-scale catalytic theft ring.”
In announcing the arrests, police shared a photo of a large amount of catalytic converters piled in the middle of a living room.
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.
Here are some tips from the L.A. County 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