Staff Report

In response to more than a dozen thefts of catalytic converters from area vehicles, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is warning residents to park their cars in places that are as safe as possible.

The thieves are targeting vehicles in the middle of the night and sawing off their catalytic converters, which contain expensive precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium that they can sell to make money, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

Most of the local vehicles targeted were Toyotas or Hondas, and catalytic converter thefts are becoming an increasing problem nationwide, the spokesman said.

Since 1975, all vehicles produced in the United States must have a catalytic converter as part of the exhaust system to reduce the toxicity of emissions. As part of the exhaust system, it is underneath the car.

To help prevent a catalytic converter theft, the sheriff recommends:

  • Always park in well-lighted areas.
  • At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close to the entrance of the building or where there is traffic.
  • If you own or work at a business or factory, park within a fenced area that is busy during the day and secured at night.
  • Engrave your license plate number on the converter to make it traceable.
  • Purchase a vehicle security system and make sure it’s set to trigger with just the slightest motion.
  • Visit a local muffler shop and have the converter secured to the vehicle’s frame with a couple of pieces of hardened steel welded to the frame.
  • Check out catalytic converter theft-deterrent systems at a local auto parts store or online.

Anyone with information about any catalytic converter thefts is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 805-681-4100 or leave an anonymous tip at 805-681-4171.