Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Police Warn of Smog Device Thefts
By Hector Gonzalez
Thieves have targeted anti-smog devices for years, but Santa Monica police this week reported a recent spike in catalytic converter thefts and warned vehicle owners to take precautions.
“The thefts are taking place during the early morning hours, targeting vehicles parked curbside,” SMPD spokesman Sgt. Rudy Camarena said.
In the past few weeks, thieves have stolen the devices from vehicles both within the city limits and in adjacent neighborhoods, he said.
Similar spikes have been reported in recent months in Torrance, Silver Lake and the San Fernando Valley, according to Torrance and Los Angeles police websites.
Catalytic converters have been mandatory since 1975 for all vehicles sold in California. Normally, most drivers never think about the catalytic converters in their vehicles, since the part requires no regular maintenance and rarely needs replacement.
Attached to the mufflers of vehicles, catalytic converters turn toxic exhaust gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful emissions.
But thieves have discovered that the emission control devices contain traces of precious metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium.
‘With the price of precious metals skyrocketing, thieves are helping themselves to catalytic converters that contain enough platinum, palladium or rhodium to make it worth the risk to cut it from the underbelly of your vehicle,” according to Nationwide Insurance’s website.
Using a battery operated power saw, a thief can cut out a catalytic converter from under a vehicle within minutes, Camarena said.
Thieves then sell the stolen converters to scrap yards for anywhere from $100 to $150 or more, according to Nationwide.
“Criminals target trucks and sport utility vehicles for this type of theft due to the vehicle's height, which allows easier access to the undercarriage,” the company’s website says.
Compounding the problem for police, many drivers don’t become aware that the part has been stolen until they go to start up their vehicles and hear “a gravelly roar,” the website said.
According to Nationwide, it can cost up to $1,000 to replace the device in some vehicles.
Camarena said vehicle owners can purchase anti-theft devices at most auto part stores. Nationwide’s website also offers the following tips to prevent catalytic converter thefts:
Camarena urged anyone with information regarding the recent thefts to contact the Santa Monica Police Department's non-emergency number at 310-458-8491, or dial 911 if you witness a crime in progress or suspicious activity.
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