It’s an unfortunate staple of the Glendale Police Department’s weekly crime report, and so far this year, the offense has been occurring on a daily basis.
Detective Abe Chung of the GPD’s burglary auto theft unit, said that there have been 41 catalytic converters stolen from vehicles in the city as of Friday, Feb. 5, which represents a marked increase in that specific crime.
The part is a relatively innocuous component of an automobile’s exhaust system, but a valuable target of thieves looking to make quick buck. Or $50. Or $100. In some cases, as much as $150.
That’s the going rate for the precious metals — rhodium, platinum and palladium — that are found in each device, which are relatively easy to access due to their location on the vehicle.
“They are very easy to steal,” said Chung, a 13-year veteran of the GPD who has been in his current position for three years. “It takes about 30 seconds with the use of a handsaw.”
Thieves use portable, battery-powered hand saws to make the necessary incisions required to remove the devices, which weigh about 10 pounds and are approximately 24 inches in length. Located between the engine and exhaust pipe, the catalytic converter removes noxious gases and particles from the car’s emission.
Toyotas are especially vulnerable, and sport utility vehicles — SUVs — and pickup trucks are also popular due to the relative ease of access, as they are higher off the ground.
Catalytic converters are much easier to swipe than to replace. A standard device will cost the victim approximately $1,000, though some fetch a much higher price tag. An insurance claim may even require a substantial deductible. Whatever the case, you’ll know immediately if yours has been swiped.
“Your car will make a really, really, loud noise from the exhaust system,” Chung said. “Having a catalytic converter is not a necessity to drive the vehicle, but it makes it a lot quieter.”
Chung stated that the large unemployment rate due to the pandemic has resulted in desperate measures.
“Typically, the thief is out of work and looking for ways to make money,” Chung said.
It’s no simple chore to protect the catalytic converter, though auto repair shops can weld a rebar-like material around the part, which will deter the thief, but not guarantee that it won’t get taken. Some law enforcement agencies recommend engraving your driver’s license or another mark into the catalytic converter for identification purposes.
Chung suggests that residents park at night in a well-lighted area and be suspicious of activity around automobiles during off-hours. Thieves also look for vehicles parked in large open lots and often use a lookout during the actual commission of the crime.
“Many are taken during the early morning hours,” said Chung. “A few are stolen during the day, but that is rare.”