Three automotive businesses in Santa Clara County have partnered with the Los Altos Police Department in an effort to reduce the number of catalytic converters that are stolen, police announced Sunday.
The Catalytic Converter Etch and Sketch Program will allow people to get their catalytic converter, a critical component of a vehicles exhaust system, etched for free with their license plate or VIN number in case it gets stolen.
Etching is a process that produces a pattern or design on a hard material by eating into the material's surface by laser beam or acid.
Police said when people etch their converter, it creates a way for law enforcement to locate the owner if they have their catalytic converter stolen and it gets recovered.
Allied Auto Works in Los Altos, Magnussen's Toyota of Palo Alto and Los Altos 76 Station are taking part in the program.
Although standard etching is free, anti-theft devices or bracket installations are not and the program does not pay for installations.
Replacing a converter can cost a person up to $4,000, police said.
Data from State Farm Insurance claims showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, thefts in catalytic converters rose drastically by 293% nationwide from June 1, 2020, to June 30 2021.
California has been the state hit hardest by these thefts, with State Farm paying over $10.8 million for 4,507 catalytic converter theft claims. That number drastically increased last year to $23 million paid for 9,057 theft claims, according to State Farm data.
According to police, thieves target these car parts because they contain expensive materials that have a street value up to $250. Removal can take less than a minute.
Appointments are required for the service and people are asked to mention the program when seeking assistance.
Any automotive business owners wanting to join the program should contact Detective Fantozzi at [email protected]