The Los Angeles Police Department arrested four people involved in a catalytic converter theft ring early Thursday morning. An undercover task force had been following their activities across Los Angeles County after they noticed a spike of these thefts in the West L.A. area, LAPD Lt. Mark Day told KPCC.
Plainclothes officers recovered 10 recently stolen converters from one of the four vehicles involved in the early morning operation — a fourth car with one other suspect fled the scene. The department believes they were involved in at least 38 previous similar heists that date back to April, Day said.
A large portion of the stolen car parts are from the Toyota Prius, but the thieves have also been known to target Hondas, Day said. The largest attraction of these particular models: the metals contained in the catalytic converters — platinum, palladium and rhodium make it worth the risk to cut it from the vehicles, he added.
The effortless and swift manner in which these parts can be acquired are also a reason why these models are singled out — the suspects taken into custody were able to cut them from the cars in less than 90 seconds, he said.
Here are three tips from Day to avoid your converter being stolen:
- Park your car in a well-lit area (or use motion-detection lights if parking in a driveway)
- Purchase a catalytic converter lock if you have to park on the street — most are a metal webbing to secure the converter to the car, or you can have it welded to the car frame
- Etch the license plate number on the catalytic converter, so they can identify the victims and successfully apprehend the criminals
“It’s become very popular because of the value, relative ease to steal, and their lack of identifying markings — that’s why we recommend the license plate numbers,” Day said.
Many people, even with insurance, are having to pay $250 to $500 deductibles, he said. The converters can cost anywhere from between $1,500 to $2,000.