SAN DIEGO — Catalytic converter thefts continue to be a huge problem for car owners throughout San Diego County.
“These criminals know exactly where they’re located on every single vehicle, so like this particular Volvo, it’s pretty straight in the center,” said Nelson Diaz, regional sales manager for Midas, while standing under a Volvo on the lift at their La Mesa location. “It’s pretty easy if you think about it. One cut here, one cut here, this whole piece comes out. Super easy for someone to do with the right tools. One to two minutes max.”
Law enforcement agencies around the county have seen a huge uptick in recent years of these types of thefts.
“In 2020, there were a little over 400 catalytic converter thefts in San Diego County,” said Lt. Katy Lynch, P.I.O. for La Mesa Police Department. “In 2021, that number shot up to over 2,400 thefts for the county, and for 2022, we’re already over 500 just in the first quarter.”
The precious metals inside a catalytic converter are lucrative for criminals.
They can sell a used one for between $200 and $500 to an internet buyer or a scrapyard, and if your catalytic is stolen, it can be a huge inconvenience.
“Unfortunately, you can’t get to work,” said Lt. Lynch. “It has a huge financial impact on individuals as well whether they go through their insurance or not, it’s thousands of dollars to get these things replaced.”
For the entire month of July, which is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month, Midas locations throughout the county will be offering free engraving and painting of your catalytic converter.
“Painting them, etching them with a license plate number does help reduce it. Of course, it’s not going to totally eliminate it, but if someone crawls underneath and they see that it’s painted, obviously that’s going to be a deterrent,” said Diaz. “They’re going to go on to the next one.”
Having them marked in such a way helps law enforcement too.
“Let’s say they contact someone on a traffic stop and there’s a bunch of catalytic converters in the back seat, we have no way of tying those back to a victim and that’s why engraving those catalytic converters is so important,” said Lt. Lynch. “We can identify a victim and therefore, we can prosecute the offenders.”
It can be hard to catch a thief in the act, but Lt. Lynch wants people to look out for each other and report any suspicious activity.
“The sense of community that you have in your neighborhood, look out for one another,” said Lt. Lynh. “If you see something that doesn’t look right, please call us. It doesn’t bother us. That’s what we’re here for. We’d much rather catch them in the act than take a report the next day and you have to go through all the steps to get your catalytic converter replaced.”
If you’d like the etching done to your catalytic converter, just call up any one of their eight locations throughout the county and schedule a time to bring in your car during the month of July.
WATCH RELATED: Pacific Beach man has catalytic converter stolen from his car in Point Loma twice (March 2022)