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Behind the Badge Make catalytic converter theft a little harder with these tips

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Mike Kermgard

Posted: Monday, July 18, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:14 am, Mon Jul 18, 2011.

Unfortunately, catalytic converter theft is nothing new. It seems to have peaks and lulls, as many different crimes do. In Lodi, we have recently seen another rise in catalytic converter theft.

In case you are unfamiliar with what a catalytic converter is, here is a brief explanation: The catalytic converter, also referred to as "the cat," is installed in the exhaust system, normally in front of the vehicle's muffler. It is located underneath the vehicle, and is roughly the same size of a standard muffler. The catalytic converter is a smog device, and is designed to reduce the noxious emissions created by your engine.

The catalytic converter contains amounts of precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium. If you own a Toyota, unfortunately, your catalytic converter is one of the most desirable. Other converters, primarily higher-end imports, are also desirable.

Thieves will recycle the stolen catalytic converter for anywhere between $20 to $200, and potentially more, depending on the converter.

Recycling the catalytic converter is very lucrative for both the thief and the scrap metal recycler. I am often asked, "Why don't you just go after the recycler?" Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. Since this is a nationwide problem, thieves, and third parties to thieves, may transport the stolen converters a great distance to receive their scrap metal value. The enforcement of the scrap metal recyclers is an ongoing process.

How are the converters stolen? A couple of different ways: They are either unbolted, cut off with a battery powered saw, or cut off using a small pipe cutter, which seems to be the most popular due to the fact that it is silent. Catalytic converter theft is quick, usually taking between 1 and 3 minutes.

What can you do to prevent the theft of your catalytic converter? There are a number of things you can do, including the obvious things like parking in the garage, parking in a well-lit area, etc. Other steps that can be taken involve a little more work, but may be worth the effort.

You can purchase aftermarket anti-theft devices that clamp around the exhaust pipes, preventing the thief from cutting the pipes.

You can also visit a local muffler shop, where they can tack weld the catalytic converter bolts (if so equipped) so they cannot be removed with a wrench, and weld metal bar stock to the pipes that prevent, or make it far more difficult, for the thieves to remove the converter with a cutting instrument. If you are interested in adding such protection, best bet is to check with your favorite local muffler shop and ask their opinion. Since every vehicle is configured differently, various options may be available.

Catalytic converter replacement can cost anywhere between a couple hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, and in some cases, much more. Adding some theft protection, which can cost as little as $20 to $40, is money well spent when you consider the cost of replacement.

It's sad that we have to take such steps to protect our property, but the truth is, we do. I'm a firm believer that we all need to work together, and make it as difficult as we can on the thieves. If we all work together, we can make a difference. I assure you that the Lodi Police Department is well aware of the problem, and is working to catch every thief we possibly can.

If you have any specific questions, or suggestions for article topics, feel free to contact me at mkermgard@pd.lodi.gov.

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