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SCV rides stripped of precious valuables

Law enforcement looks into string of catalytic converter thefts involving metal

Posted: July 19, 2011 10:23 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2011 10:23 p.m.
 

Detectives with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station have responded to at least a half-dozen reports of catalytic converters being stolen from vehicles during the past week, most being SUVs made by Toyota.

“We’ve had several people in the last little while report their catalytic converters stolen,” sheriff’s Sgt. James Anderson said Tuesday.

“It does seem to be the trend right now.”

The smog-reducing devices are often made with small portions of precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium, which thieves cash in for between $100 and $150 a converter.

The value of platinum, according to stock market reports Monday, was about $1,775 per ounce, compared to gold which — for the same period — was valued at $1,588 per ounce.

On Monday, a woman visited the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall and had the catalytic converter ripped from her Toyota in less than 15 minutes, one deputy told The Signal on Tuesday.

A couple of days prior to that, another woman who works at Sears had her Toyota butchered for precious-metal parts.

“The lady parked her car, went out to lunch and after she got back from lunch she heard a god-awful sound,” said one enforcement officer who asked not to be identified. “They had taken the converter off her Toyota Sienna.”

The officer noted: “It would almost be cheaper to tape a $100 bill to the tail pipe.”

The cost to replace catalytic converters is about $2,000.

The crime carries a felony charge of grand theft.

Detectives Tuesday were also trying to find the thieves who stolen catalytic converters from Toyota SUVs July 11 and 12.

In the earlier incident, a 2003 Toyota Tundra parked all day at the Newhall Metrolink station on Railroad Avenue at Market Street was hit.

The owner, who lives in Stevenson Ranch, parked his car at about 7:45 a.m. and returned for it at about 7:30 p.m.

“The victim started his vehicle, and it had a very loud sound,” according to the deputy’s report. “When he returned home and looked under his vehicle, he saw that the catalytic converter was missing.”

The very next day, thieves did the same thing to a white 2003 Toyota Sequoia SUV in Canyon Country.

All together, six catalytic converters have been stolen in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past seven days, investigators said.

Deputies noted thieves used a cutting device to remove them.

“Prevention is pretty much impossible,” Anderson said. “You’re going to park your car, and you’re going to walk away from it.

“What I would like people to do is be more cognizant of people hanging around parking lots like those at the park-and-ride,” he said. “If you see someone getting out from under a car, call us.”

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