California Police Recover at Least $400K in Stolen Catalytic Converters

Nineteen arrests were made in the massive bust.

cat thefts la county lead
Los Angeles County Sheriffs

For those who don't know, your average car's catalytic converter is full of valuable precious metals like platinum. For a few reasons, specific cars get theirs stolen the most and it's been a big problem during the pandemic, especially in California.

Thankfully, police are cracking down on these thefts and beginning to recover some of the stolen parts, at least in Los Angeles County. On Wednesday of this week, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Crime Impact Team led search warrant executions at four different locations around L.A., finding 250 stolen catalytic converters, an estimated $100,000 in cash, and one illegal firearm. Nineteen people were arrested.

@SCVSHERIFF via Twitter

The press release for this cat recovery estimates the total value of these converters at $750,000, but that's a little steep. Some quick math reveals if that's true, the value of each catalytic converter is $3,000, which is a lot, even for the most valuable—and likely most often stolen—Toyota Prius cat. According to our research, multiple sources put the repair cost closer to anywhere from $1,600 to $2,750 for a Prius, and that's including labor.

Prius catalytic converters are more valuable because they contain a higher concentration of precious metals. They're also compact and easy to remove with a reciprocating saw and a floor jack. A thief can jack up the car, cut off the cat, and get out in a hurry. The next morning you'll wake up and your car will be extremely loud—the muffler downstream is no longer connected to the exhaust system.

Other popular vehicles for catalytic converter thefts include SUVs and pickups because no jack is required to get under the vehicle. 

Police suggest a few ways to prevent thefts of these converters, but really there's only so much you can do. You can park in a well-lit area with a security camera, etch your license plate number onto your cat in case it gets stolen and recovered, or weld the bolts on your catalytic converter to your exhaust system so it can't be stolen as easily. Really, though, the only proper solution is to buy a device that protects your cat from being cut off. These typically resemble heavy-duty metal skid plates, and they can be bought for a variety of different makes and models.

In any case, it's good to see police cracking down on the thefts of these emissions-cutting devices. California especially has strict rules about tailpipe smog, so being without your cat if you live there isn't just a loud inconvenience, it's very illegal. Hopefully, these thefts will slow down once the economy returns to normal, but who knows. In the meantime, be careful.

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