It has been on the South Pasadena Police Department’s radar for years, but the increasing number of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles has reached alarming proportions in the city.
In recent days, 24 of the highly valued devices have been stolen around town, coupled with two failed attempts, according to local police accounts. SPPD officers have apprehended several individuals for removing the exhaust emission control component of a car, which is designed to reduce toxic gases and pollutants.
“Catalytic Converters is a rising crime throughout Southern California, not just in South Pasadena,” explained Richard Lee, the local department’s crime prevention officer, noting that thieves seize them for their precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Those stealing catalytic converters make them a lucrative exchange for cash as burglars commonly earn top dollar selling the key car part to scrapyards and auto suppliers.
“There are only a few grams of each inside a catalytic converter,” Lee explained. “Some vehicles have more of the precious metals than others.”
Every car has on,e but the Toyota Prius, according to Lee, is the most targeted vehicle since they have more of the metals than other vehicles.
An ounce of platinum, he notes, can reap $1,100, while palladium goes for $2,300 per ounce and rhodium can command an astonishing $24,000 per ounce.
“Gold is only selling for $1,700 per ounce, which means both palladium and rhodium are worth more than gold!” said Lee.
And despite some major arrests in recent days, authorities don’t see thefts going away anytime soon. Over a two-week span, authorities cracked a number of cases, including one in which LA County Sheriff’s officers arrested 19 individuals for allegedly stealing 250 catalytic converters from four locations. Officers also raided a residence in San Bernardino County and uncovered 400 catalytic converters that were stolen. One person was crushed and died in Anaheim as he attempted to disassemble a converter from a Toyota Prius.
LA County Sheriff’s Department officials report a 400 percent increase in stolen catalytic converters from 2019 to 2020.
What can people do to prevent their pilferage? “Be observant,” urged Lee, “and look for suspicious activity. It only takes 2-3 minutes to cut and remove the catalytic converter. Thieves usually work in pairs, one acts as a lookout while the other crawls under the car and removes the catalytic converter. So, look for people loitering around vehicles. Thieves will also just double-park on the street with their hazard lights on next to a potential vehicle and commit the crime as traffic will just flow by them.”
Since it is fastened under the vehicle, Lee said it is difficult to protect a catalytic converter but added there are some products that can help to secure them in a cage, including the Cat Clamp (https://catclamp.com/) and Cat Defender (https://getcatsecurity.com/).
The officer stressed the importance of reporting any suspicious activity to the South Pasadena Police Department at (626) 403-7297.