Catalytic converter thefts on the rise

FILE PHOTO: Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station investigators are examining a rise in catalytic converter thefts in the area, officials said. July 19, 2018 . Austin Dave/The Signal

Three separate catalytic converter thefts were reported to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station within hours of each other last month — part of a growing property crime trend that’s concerning officials.  

Local law enforcement officials said this week that these types of thefts are becoming more and more frequent as the thieves get better and better at what they’re doing. In response, the city of Santa Clarita and the SCV Sheriff’s Station have partnered up for a pair of media campaigns, as well as events meant to help track the stolen equipment. 

“Obviously, the (catalytic converter) thefts are on the rise again,” said Sgt. Steve Sgrignoli of the SCV Sheriff’s Station, adding that thieves have become increasingly aware of what is inside of these easily accessible car parts. “The precious metals are what they’re after and as long as metals remain at such a high price per ounce, like rhodium, we will probably see an increase.” 

Sgrignoli said that in March of this year, the station executed a multi-search warrant in the city of Los Angeles. During that operation, more than approximately 250 converters — roughly $750,000 worth — were recovered and 19 individuals were arrested. However, the operation seemed to only Band-Aid the problem.  

“After the warrant, we saw a decrease in activity for the first month or so,” said Sgrignoli. “We are now seeing a rise again.” 

The numbers for catalytic converter thefts in the city of Santa Clarita bear out Sgrignoli’s observations. In 2019, there were only 25 locally reported catalytic converter thefts. By 2020 there had been 145 total, and as of July of this year, there have been 164.  

For instance, July 2019 had one reported theft, July 2020 had 9 and this year’s July — the month for the most thefts in 2021 — had 32. The lowest number of thefts for a month this year was April, when only 13 reports were made.  

“More a crime of opportunity and the cash price per catalytic converter is significant depending on the type of vehicle they’re stolen from,” said Sgrignoli. “They can remove a catalytic converter in under a minute’s time frame.” 

Over the past few years, officials have emphasized the importance of securing your converters and possessions to ward off the potential for theft. The precious metals can be “scrapped” for a quick profit of a few hundred dollars each.  

The ease of the thefts and their growing regularity were part of what prompted the city and Sheriff’s Station to team up for a number of outreach campaigns aimed at encouraging people to secure their vehicles a little better, known as “Guard That Auto.” 

The Sheriff’s Station recommends, in order to avoid being a victim of theft, to perform the following steps when securing your converters and cars:  

  • 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. Etching your license plate number on your catalytic converter will assist deputies in locating its original owner in the event it is stolen and recovered.  
  • Always report suspicious activity — if you see something, say something. 

Etching events are set to be held by the SCV Sheriff’s Station on Aug. 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26 and 28. For more information about how to make reservations, email Deputy Borbon at [email protected].  

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS