OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A few months ago, the owner of a Barrio Logan muffler shop showed CBS 8 that within seconds, thieves can remove the expensive car part, as seen in multiple surveillance videos around the county.
What is a catalytic converter and why is there a spike in these types of crimes?
A stolen car part like this can be sold for up to $3,000. The part is sold on the black market or it's sold to a recycler who can strip it down for its valuable metals.
What is even worse is that it will cost you even thousands more just to get it replaced.
Why are catalytic converters valuable?
Catalytic converters are vehicle parts that contain valuable platinum group metals like rhodium, iridium, and palladium--these are all precious metals.
The increase in these thefts coincides with the increase in the cost of these precious metals and the increase in demand for catalytic converters due to increasing vehicle emission regulation.
Criminals can steal your catalytic converter in moments, using tools found at hardware stores, leaving you with costly parts to replace and repair.
“They’re not getting just a slap on the wrist, this is a felony and they will get a felony conviction and we’re not going to let it happen again,” said Detective Chris James.
VIN number engraving
To help crack down on catalytic converter thefts Oceanside police hosted its second catalytic converter etching event. Police officers etched individual license plate numbers into 90 vehicles for free.
A protective measure to help trace stolen parts back to their rightful owners.
Matching a stolen catalytic converter to the vehicle it was stolen from, is an important step in the pursuit of a criminal case against the thieves.
Police are urging car owners to engrave their vehicle's identification number on their converter to link the part to their vehicle.
The engraving can also alert buyers to stolen parts. Participating in a catalytic converter etching event is a proactive measure you can take to assist law enforcement in combating this crime trend.
All participants had their catalytic converters etched with an identifying number. This etching will provide law enforcement with valuable information should it be stolen and later located by law enforcement personnel during subsequent investigations.
Oceanside Police personnel were available throughout the day to provide valuable tips to help keep vehicles safe.
“So you could tell a catalytic converter has been stolen by several things, the type of cuts on each end of the catalytic converter, the condition the wiring is in,” said Detective James.
Catalytic converter thefts have become a nationwide problem in the last two years, having increased by over 700% in Oceanside alone and over 400% throughout San Diego county.
Just last week, two men and one teenager were arrested in Carlsbad for stealing catalytic converters.
“Any case that we receive catalytic converters, pretty much in the last 14 cases I've returned them to the victims. And it’s really just a good collaborative effort between patrol and crime analysts, as well as myself.” said James.
Oceanside police said with this new theft-prevention initiative, they hope those numbers drop.
They also encourage more vehicle owners to visit these free events.
WATCH RELATED: San Diego law enforcement cracking down on catalytic converter thefts with new initiative.