A relatively new crime is on the rise in South Pasadena—the theft of catalytic converters in vehicles.
Just in the past month, four or five vehicles have had their catalytic converters stolen, according to South Pasadena Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Richard Lee. “For our small city, that is a big change,” Lee told South Pasadena Patch, adding that after dropping off the crime charts for nearly a year, the thefts have begun to occur once again.
Thieves are targeting other parts of vehicles as well, such as batteries, the South Pas Police Department notes in its Neighborhood Watch newsletter for September. But catalytic converters are particularly vulnerable because they’re located under the vehicle, the newsletter notes.
Thieves crawl under vehicles and cut or remove the bolts that secure catalytic converters, says the newsletter, explaining that catalytic converters are stolen for three precious metals inside that are designed to detoxify emissions: platinum, palladium and rhodium. "These metals are the sold as scrap," says the newsletter. "Replacing a catalytic converter can easily cost up to one thousand dollars.”
The theft is rampant in Northeast Los Angeles, especially in the neighboring communities around Highland Park. “Our surrounding cities have also reported thefts of catalytic converters,” Lee said, referring to Pasadena, Alhambra and San Marino.
Catalytic converter theft is nothing new in California, where the crime had become so prominent by 2010 that the state legislature passed SB627, which requires scrap dealers to create a paper trail whenever they purchase a catalytic converter.
Although the precious metals in the converters are comparable in value to gold, they exist in such trace amounts that a catalytic converter will usually only fetch $30 to $60 from scrap dealers, according to Det. Larry Burcher of the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division.
SUVs are the most popular vehicle targeted because of their relatively high ground clearance, making it easy thieves to crawl underneath, according to the South Pas Neighborhood Watch newsletter, which offers the following tips to safeguard against catalytic converter thefts:
• Be suspicious of anyone walking around looking under cars.
• Be suspicious of someone claiming to be working under vehicles during nighttime.
• Park in well-lighted areas at night.