The Chula Vista Police Department is trying to crack down on catalytic converter thefts. Catalytic converters, which help control a car’s emissions, have been especially popular among thieves during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In 2020, we had just under 350 thefts. By 2021, we’re already over 1,700,” said Lt. Dan Peak with the Chula Vista Police Department.
On Sunday, CVPD partnered with Wheel Depot to engrave the catalytic converters of 50 cars for free. Mechanics use a machine to engrave vehicle identification numbers on catalytic converters.
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“The reason it’s so important to be engraved is the thief will get under there and see the VIN number engraved on the catalytic converter and they’re just going to move on to the next one,” said Peak
“What thieves are doing is they’re cutting these off really quickly. They can do it in a few minutes and take it to a scrapyard. And a scrap yard, if there is not a VIN number, they’ll just melt it down for the metal,” said Peak
What the thieves are cashing in on is the precious metal inside the catalytic converter. Thieves can make between $50 and $200, according to Peck.
The price for the repair could be much higher for car owners.
“It was not a cheap repair,” said Oscar Medrano, a Chula Vista resident.
Medrano says the catalytic converter was stolen from his mom's car. He's getting an engraving done on his SUV, just to be safe.
“It sucks. It sucks when it gets stolen so that’s the reason,” said Medrano.
Supply chain issues worldwide have increased the price and demand for precious metals. Police say that has also affected the rise in catalytic converter thefts.
To avoid theft, police recommend you park in the garage if possible. They also recommend parking in an area with good lighting, or an area with surveillance cameras to deter thieves.