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Catalytic converter thieves get 'selective' in North County neighborhood

Catalytic converter thieves get 'selective'
Posted at 5:24 PM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 21:19:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The Toyota Prius may be the new favorite target for local thieves targeting catalytic converters.

Earlier in the week, Kirstie Pfeifer put her 2007 Toyota Prius on sale on Craigslist. She parked it near her home, feet from 4S Heritage Park in 4S Ranch. On Thursday morning, she went to get it smogged.

"Turned the car on, and this really loud noise happened. I actually thought the car was about to blow up. Really scared," said Pfeifer.

Hours later, at the auto repair shop, she got the news.

"The service technician said, 'Somebody stole your catalytic converter.' I thought he was kidding," said Pfeifer.

It was no joke. Someone had gotten under her car and cut out the catalytic converter, leaving behind a hefty repair bill.

"Between $4,000 and $5,000. Might even be more than the value of the car," said Pfeifer.

Catalytic converters contain valuable metals like platinum. Thieves can resell them for a few hundred dollars. The Prius has a catalytic converter that can be twice as large as many cars. In the past few weeks, police and auto repair places in the Bay Area have reported a spike in Prius catalytic converter thefts, causing a backlog for replacement parts.

Locally, there have been signs of a similar spike. Sheriff's deputies report three similar Prius converter thefts in the North County, all in late April.

Experts suggest the following tips for protecting your car:

  • Have your catalytic converter welded to your frame
  • Calibrate your car alarm to be vibration-sensitive.
  • Engrave your VIN number on the catalytic converter.