Morro Bay Police issued a “Community Alert” warning the public about a string of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in town.
According to the alert, as of Feb. 12, police had taken crime reports for seven thefts of catalytic converters mainly from Toyota Priuses.
Catalytic converters are part of a car’s emissions controls. They re-burn engine exhaust to reduce mostly hydrocarbons before the exhaust goes out the tailpipe. The devices, which are welded or bolted into the exhaust system underneath the vehicle, make cars run cleaner and reduces air pollution. They also contain some valuable metals.
Eventually all that metal gets burned off over time, but with a hybrid like the Prius, the gas engine only runs part time, and so more metals are likely to be recovered.
Police said the thefts are a direct result of an increase in demand for the metals inside the catalytic converters.
“A global trend toward stricter automobile emissions rules and the effects of the pandemic on the mining in South Africa, a major producer of rhodium, has limited the supply causing the price of these precious metals to drastically increase,” police said. Palladium is another metal found in the devices.
Also, the Prius converters are simply bolted on and relatively easy to remove. Indeed, such thieves can steal them in a matter of just a few minutes making it hard to catch them. Welded converters must be cut off with a hacksaw, a reciprocating saw, or cut off with a cutting torch.
Police said there are a few things people can do to thwart the sneaky thieves — park your car in the garage (and lock the garage doors); park behind a fence or in a well-lit area if you don’t have a garage; and use surveillance cameras to keep an eye on your vehicle.
And of course call 9-1-1 if you see suspicious activity. That’s how police figure they will catch the hoodlums.
“When law enforcement sees an increase in crimes such as this,” police said in the alert, “we often reach out to our neighboring agencies and share information to aid in the capture or investigations into these crimes.”
In Morro Bay police are working with other agencies, as the thefts are being reported in other cities, too. “We are developing important information through our social media outlets and Neighborhood Watch partners to educate the community about these thefts.”
According to the Auto Zone website (see: www.autozone.com) replacing a catalytic converter varies depending on the make and model of the vehicle.
Auto Zone said to expect to pay at least $950 to replace a damaged one.
“For some vehicles,” Auto Zone reported, “you may be looking at $2,500 or more to replace a damaged catalytic converter. You should also think about labor costs, which could cost between $70 and $130 an hour. The time it takes to finish the job will vary depending on the specific vehicle involved.”
Doing the job yourself could drop the costs to $100-$200 and on many vehicles it’s relatively easy to do, “especially if you buy a direct replacement catalytic converter. The type of converter also plays into cost and of replacement.”
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