News

Dozens of catalytic converters reported stolen as thieves target parked Priuses in Mountain View

The Mountain View Police Department is warning residents of a huge increase in catalytic converter thefts since regional shelter-in-place rules went into effect, with reports that 29 vehicles -- almost all Toyota Priuses -- have been targeted in the city since mid-March.

Police officials are calling the trend a case of criminals taking advantage of the stay at home orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, although catalytic converter thefts have been a growing problem for law enforcement agencies throughout the Bay Area since last year.

In many of the reported cases, thieves are targeting cars at night using a wrench or power tools to remove or cut off catalytic converters located in the vehicles' undercarriage. The parts are then sold for the precious metals contained inside, which have risen in value significantly starting in 2019, police said. Thieves can steal catalytic converters in a matter of minutes, and can go undetected even when brazenly stealing them in front of homes and apartments in broad daylight.

Mountain View police did not immediately respond to a request for more information, including the locations of the vehicles that were targeted.

A similar trend struck the city of San Mateo in February and Berkeley in January. San Mateo police reported that platinum, which is contained inside catalytic converters, has gone up in value and made the vehicle parts a lucrative opportunity for scrap metal.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Mountain View also had its own increase in catalytic converter thefts last September, albeit much smaller. Four converters were stolen in a nine-day period, and a fifth was tampered with but not stolen.

The clear trend in recent months, as well as in September 2019, as that the Toyota Prius is the overwhelming target of choice. Back in September, the belief was that Priuses are lightweight and easier to lift with a jack, making it a prime target for thefts. But in the latest statement, Mountain View police say it likely has to do with the quality of the metal inside the car part.

Catalytic converters act as a filter for exhaust in vehicles with an internal combustion engine, with the "catalyst" being the precious metals inside. Police say that hybrid vehicles tend to corrode these metals more slowly than a standard internal combustion engine vehicle, making it more valuable as scrap metal.

Police are recommending that residents park in well-lit areas and, if possible, inside a garage rather than on the street. Security settings on vehicles can often be set to activate in response to vibrations, which will go off if thieves attempt to use a reciprocating saw or other power tools. Police also suggest that engraving the vehicle identification number on the converter could alert scrap dealers that the part was stolen.

Other protective measures include welding or shearing off the heads of catalytic converter bolts and welding extra metal onto the exhaust system to make it harder to cut through with a saw.

Replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost thousands of dollars, though some comprehensive car insurance plans cover the costs of the repair.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Dozens of catalytic converters reported stolen as thieves target parked Priuses in Mountain View

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 12:49 pm

The Mountain View Police Department is warning residents of a huge increase in catalytic converter thefts since regional shelter-in-place rules went into effect, with reports that 29 vehicles -- almost all Toyota Priuses -- have been targeted in the city since mid-March.

Police officials are calling the trend a case of criminals taking advantage of the stay at home orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, although catalytic converter thefts have been a growing problem for law enforcement agencies throughout the Bay Area since last year.

In many of the reported cases, thieves are targeting cars at night using a wrench or power tools to remove or cut off catalytic converters located in the vehicles' undercarriage. The parts are then sold for the precious metals contained inside, which have risen in value significantly starting in 2019, police said. Thieves can steal catalytic converters in a matter of minutes, and can go undetected even when brazenly stealing them in front of homes and apartments in broad daylight.

Mountain View police did not immediately respond to a request for more information, including the locations of the vehicles that were targeted.

A similar trend struck the city of San Mateo in February and Berkeley in January. San Mateo police reported that platinum, which is contained inside catalytic converters, has gone up in value and made the vehicle parts a lucrative opportunity for scrap metal.

Mountain View also had its own increase in catalytic converter thefts last September, albeit much smaller. Four converters were stolen in a nine-day period, and a fifth was tampered with but not stolen.

The clear trend in recent months, as well as in September 2019, as that the Toyota Prius is the overwhelming target of choice. Back in September, the belief was that Priuses are lightweight and easier to lift with a jack, making it a prime target for thefts. But in the latest statement, Mountain View police say it likely has to do with the quality of the metal inside the car part.

Catalytic converters act as a filter for exhaust in vehicles with an internal combustion engine, with the "catalyst" being the precious metals inside. Police say that hybrid vehicles tend to corrode these metals more slowly than a standard internal combustion engine vehicle, making it more valuable as scrap metal.

Police are recommending that residents park in well-lit areas and, if possible, inside a garage rather than on the street. Security settings on vehicles can often be set to activate in response to vibrations, which will go off if thieves attempt to use a reciprocating saw or other power tools. Police also suggest that engraving the vehicle identification number on the converter could alert scrap dealers that the part was stolen.

Other protective measures include welding or shearing off the heads of catalytic converter bolts and welding extra metal onto the exhaust system to make it harder to cut through with a saw.

Replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost thousands of dollars, though some comprehensive car insurance plans cover the costs of the repair.

Comments

Alex M
Willowgate
on Jun 1, 2020 at 2:16 pm
Alex M, Willowgate
on Jun 1, 2020 at 2:16 pm
6 people like this

An average catalytic converter contains about 5 grams of platinum, give or take a couple. A Prius is probably on the low end, probably 3-4 grams. The spot price of platinum is just under $30/gram, but that's the pure form, not embedded in clay balls or whatever form it's in inside a catalytic converter. If you spent the effort to extract the platinum, it still isn't worth the market price without purifying it, melting it into ingots, and getting it assayed. You have to steal and process a lot of catalytic converters to yield $100 for each one stolen - not including your expenses.


Price of a new one?
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2020 at 3:28 pm
Price of a new one?, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2020 at 3:28 pm
Like this comment

How much is a new cat converter vs one you can buy out of the back of van outside walmart?
That's the comparo you should be making. They're taking them because they are expensive and untraceable parts that can be sold on the black market. Tehy're targeting Priuses because of the ease they can remove them from those cars. They also love older Toyota trucks and 4runners for the same reason.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2020 at 4:48 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2020 at 4:48 pm
4 people like this

This has been going on for more than a year in Mountain View.


Amy Laden
Gemello
on Jun 1, 2020 at 4:52 pm
Amy Laden, Gemello
on Jun 1, 2020 at 4:52 pm
6 people like this

I posted the message below on Nextdoor on 4/23.
Felix's Auto Service, 191 W. Evelyn Ave., Mtn. View (650) 961-0138 installed an anti-theft device to prevent the catalytic converter on my 2006 Prius from being stolen. Older models through 2010 are appealing to thieves because the converters are much easier to remove than on newer Priuses. They want the platinum. I'd talked with Peter prior to shelter in place, and called a couple of weeks ago for an appointment. They were professional, socially distanced more than appropriately and now I have peace of mind. The thought of dealing with my insurance company, and probably needing to buy a new car (I checked with them and was told my car would probably be totalled due to the cost of replacement) was a worry.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2020 at 6:03 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2020 at 6:03 pm
6 people like this

So I just called Felix Auto referenced in the last post. I know someone with a Prius. Quoted $2,000 for the converter or $295 for a "bar" installed that makes it more difficult to steal. Compare with your mechanic.


DC
Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2020 at 8:33 pm
DC, Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2020 at 8:33 pm
Like this comment

They once were stealing the batteries in the Hybrid cars too.


Jes' Sayin'
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Jes' Sayin', Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:33 pm
8 people like this

On nextdoor dot com you can see a report that victim of one of these burglaries actually risked his life to go outside and confront the robbers and as a result was able to give the police descriptions, description of their vehicle and their license plate number. Over a month has passed and what have the detectives done about it? Do they ever do any real work over there or just spend our taxpayer money on coffee and doughnuts? Civilians are risking their lives, but what are they doing? It's time the police detectives start doing some real work or we replace all of them, starting from the top. We're sick and tired of this shit.


James Thurber
Shoreline West
on Jun 2, 2020 at 4:56 pm
James Thurber, Shoreline West
on Jun 2, 2020 at 4:56 pm
Like this comment

Easy to steal - why? A few tack welds would make them nearly impossible to remove. Hmmm? I wonder . . .


Miller CAT Corp
North Whisman
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:22 am
Miller CAT Corp, North Whisman
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:22 am
2 people like this

To clear up any confusion and misinformation, the reason Prius's are being targeted is because Toyota had a difficult time keeping emissions low on their 1st and 2nd generation hybrids. Most of the pollution comes from the initial engine start of a vehicle. As hybrids constantly turn their gasoline engine on and off, this creates a huge emissions issue that was only solved by overloading the converter with palladium and rhodium. Contrary to belief, there is little platinum in the converters. However, the price of palladium and rhodium skyrocketed in the past year, which has made Prius converters the most sought after converter to steal. It has more precious metal than any other vehicle on the market! We make Cat Shields for every model of Prius to protect the catalytic converter from theft. If you are looking for a way to protect yourself, please give us a visit.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Not sure?