SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica Police Department is alerting residents that they have seen a spike in the theft of the catalytic converter from cars in the region. In a press release to the Canyon News, the SMPD noted that many people are not aware of the device’s importance, but it is very valuable.

The catalytic converter is an emission control device that contains traces of precious metals that include platinum, rhodium and palladium. The metals can be sold for easy cash. The SMPD has reported that thefts are taking place within city limits and adjacent neighborhoods during the early morning hours, striking vehicles parked on the curbside. It takes less than several minutes to remove the device from the vehicle utilizing a battery operated power saw.

Sgt. Rudy Camarena indicated that criminals target trucks and SUVs, as they provide easy access to the device because of their height to get to the undercarriage. The SMPD notes that commercial, anti-theft devices can be purchased at auto parts stores to help prevent the theft of the removal of the device. The police department is asking residents to park their vehicles in well-lit driveways, carports or in the garage. Authorities are also asking residents to utilize motion detection lighting in areas where their vehicles may be parked overnight.

A free Etch & Catch event is being held on Wednesday, September 30, at Firestone Complete Auto Care. At the event, the heat shields of converters will be etched with the cars’ license plate number, in order to track it in the event that it is stolen and recovered. The event is sponsored by SMPD, Firestone, O’Reilly Auto Parts and the City of Santa Monica.

The flier for the Etch & Catch event includes a list of commonly targeted vehicles.
The flier for the Etch & Catch event includes a list of commonly targeted vehicles.

The event is open to Santa Monica residents with all vehicle types, and will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at 1817 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica. A reservation is required and can be done by visiting the event page on Eventbrite. At this time, tickets are sold out, but for information on future events follow the SMPD Facebook page.

Anyone with information regarding these thefts is urged to contact the Santa Monica Police Department’s non-emergency number at 310-458-8491 or to dial 911 if witnessing a crime in progress or suspicious activity.