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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Catalytic converter thefts on the rise across San Diego County

It can cost thousands of dollars to get the stolen device replaced.

SAN DIEGO — Police departments are seeing an increase in catalytic converter thefts across San Diego County.

Thieves are targeting hybrid vehicles – especially the generation two, Toyota Prius – in order to cash in on the high price of platinum and other precious metals inside the catalytic converters.

Surveillance video from Chula Vista showed two thieves stealing the catalytic converter off a Prius.

“It didn't take them that long. They were in and out in less than 10 minutes,” said the vehicle owner, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“They were mid to late twenties. It's just an invasion, you know?  I know times are tough, but we work hard for what we have and it just bothers you that they're out there doing this,” the owner said.

On the video, one suspect can be seen keeping lookout, as an accomplice removes the valuable, catalytic converter, which is a smog device attached to the exhaust system.

Oceanside Police property crimes detective Chris James said because the price of platinum is so high, catalytic converter thefts are spiking.

“In the past month, I’ve seen at least one case every week,” said Det. James.

It can cost thousands of dollars to get the stolen device replaced.

“The part and labor already make it grand theft, and typically, they're not just one-off operations. These people target multiple catalytic converters to get the most out of their trip that day,” said James.

Experts advise parking your car in a secure location. If you can't do that, you could install a Cat Security shield on the bottom of your car.

Joseph Brodnich is the sales director for the northern California company that makes the shields.

“It attaches to the frame, and it's heavy aluminum.  It's riveted on, as well as security screws that are one way.  So, it makes it very, very tough for a thief to get through this device,” said Brodnich.

The security shield costs about $200 and it can cost up to an additional $400 to get it installed. If you're mechanically inclined, you could install the security shield yourself.

It could save you money in the long run, however, as some Prius owners report getting hit multiple times.

“They know you're going to get it replaced and they could come back in a month or so,” said the Chula Vista car owner.

Thieves like to hit Prius vehicles because they contain more precious metal and in hybrid vehicles, the catalytic converters are less corroded.

Some insurance companies will only pay to replace a stolen catalytic converter one time and after that, you’re on your own.  Of course, you still have to pay your deductible.

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