How to Protect Your Car From Catalytic Converter Thieves

NBC 7 Responds looked at the growing problem as police warn of thefts across the county.

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Police are now warning that thefts of catalytic converters are on the rise across the county, saying that thieves looking for some quick cash could cost consumers thousands of dollars in car repairs.

"I'd never heard of any of this before," said Brenda Marshall, who had the converters stolen from two of her family's cars. "It was a total shock."

Marshall said she didn't even know anything was missing until she had problems starting her car. She says her son gave it a jump and they immediately knew something was wrong.

"He heard this sound like a Harley Davidson muffler sound," Marshall said. "He looked underneath and saw some wires dangling down."

Marshall's two Priuses are very popular targets, according to the warning from Oceanside police. She said it took the thieves less than 10 minutes to remove the converters from both cars.

"They get under there with a pair of metal cutters and quickly, within minutes, snap off these catalytic converters," said Doug Shupe of the Auto Club of Southern California. "Police departments all across the country, including here in Southern California, are reporting a rise in these types of thefts."

OPD public information officer Tom Bussey told NBC 7 that there have been 23 catalytic converters stolen in Oceanside since July 2020. A public records request filed by NBC 7 shows that 224 thefts were reported to the San Diego Police Department in that same period.

Shupe said the converters are often sold for scrap metal because they contain up to $100 in valuable materials.

"Two of the rare-earth metals used in catalytic converters, rhodium and palladium, are worth more per ounce than gold," said Shupe.

Marshall said three or four other neighbors also had their catalytic converters stolen from their cars on the same night. When she went to get her vehicles fixed, she was told the converters were back-ordered because of the large increase in thefts. Marshall's insurance company told her they were processing hundreds of claims.

"Normally they get a dozen cases a year," Marshall said she was told. "Since COVID started, he had personally filed over 400 claims for this exact same issue."

Marshall paid $2,700 per car for repairs and added on a shield to prevent thefts in the future.

"It's a special plate that we discovered that's a security system," Marshall said. "You can just weld it onto the bottom."

Shupe said those can hopefully prevent your car from becoming a target.

"If you have a lock on it, [removing] it's going to be a little bit more difficult and time-consuming," Shupe said. "Hopefully they're going to leave your vehicle and go on somewhere else."

Here are some other ways that police say you can try to protect your car:

  • Park in a garage or well-lit area
  • Park near building entrances or in high traffic areas
  • Have your catalytic converter welded to your car
  • Calibrate your vehicle security system to detect vibration
  • Purchase cameras that capture where you park
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