Police Investigating More Catalytic Converter Thefts

Takoma Park police are investigating two more thefts of catalytic converter units from Toyota Prius vehicles, according to an emailed community advisory.

The thefts that occurred in the past week, according to Takoma Park Police spokesperson Cathy Plevy:

  • 6800 block of Alleghany Avenue (some time between July 3 at 3:00 pm and July 4 at 12:00 pm), and
  • 7200 block of Hilton Avenue (some time overnight July 7).

There have been multiple thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles in Takoma Park since mid-May. “Hybrid cars, such as the Prius, are targeted by thieves because they have two power sources – an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine – so their catalytic converters are used less frequently to process pollutants,” Plevy said via email. “This means the metals inside them are less likely to corrode, so they’re more valuable and therefore more desirable to thieves.”

Thieves often target catalytic converters for the platinum contained inside. Sprott, a precious metals investor, said in March that platinum prices increased 90% between March 2020 and March 2021, as demand far outstripped supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community advisory also provided the following information on catalytic converter theft:

Symptoms of Converter Theft: You will notice a loud rumbling or roaring sound as soon as you turn on the engine if your catalytic converter is missing. This gets louder when you hit the gas. The exhaust is not working properly, so the vehicle also drives rougher than usual, often with a sense of sputtering as you change speed. Go to the back of the car and look underneath. The catalytic converter is a round canister that connects two pieces of piping in the exhaust. You will see a gaping space in the middle of your exhaust if the converter is missing, and you will likely see signs of the piping being cut away.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft: Always park in well-lit areas when possible. If you have a personal garage, keep your car in the garage with the door closed when the vehicle is not in use. Park close to a building entrance or to the nearest access road when parking in a public lot. This is due to the increased amount of pedestrian traffic in those areas. Security devices are available that attach to the converter, making it harder to steal. Having the converter welded to the car frame also makes it more difficult to remove. If you have a security system on your car, calibrate it so vibration sets it off. This ensures the alarm activates if a thief tries to saw off the converter. Video surveillance around your garage or driveway is also useful if you have the budget for it. Engrave your VIN number onto your catalytic converter to make it easier to identify in case it does get stolen.

What to Do in the Event of Theft: Notify the police department as soon as you discover your catalytic converter is missing. If you have your VIN number engraved on the device, give them that number as well. Call local scrap yards to inform them of the theft, especially if there is an engraved number on the converter that they can verify. Give them your phone number so you are notified in case your converter shows up at a scrap shop. Diligence is your best defense against catalytic converter theft. Pay attention to local news reports so you are aware of any theft increases. While there is no guaranteed method of preventing theft, the goal is to make your car as unattractive a target as possible. The more inconvenient your vehicle is to get to, the more likely a thief moves on to an easier target.

Graphic courtesy Takoma Park Police