The theft occurred just before 4:00 a.m. on February 7
By Keemia Zhang
Recently three men stole a catalytic converter from a parked Prius on Ophir Drive in Westwood, near UCLA.
The theft occurred just before 4:00 a.m. on February 7, with two of the men armed with a firearm and a pipe, respectively. A few minutes after the incident, the group, driving in a dark Dodge Charger, pulled over on Landfair Avenue and chased a reported bystander into the open front door of a residential building.
The suspects subsequently fled the scene in their vehicle. The UCLA Police Department arrived and issued a report ten minutes later.
The crime follows a string of catalytic converter thefts across West Los Angeles, primarily targeting parked and unattended Toyota Prius cars. The car part – a “shoebox-sized anti-pollution device” that has long been part of mandatory Prius construction – contains traces of precious metals, including palladium and platinum, that can sell from several hundred up to a thousand dollars on the scrap market.
Despite recent state laws to discourage the sale of converters, the frequency of converter thefts has risen in the previous years, spiking nearly 850% in California alone. Four suspects, also armed with a handgun and led by a dark Dodge Charger, were arrested by the police department in Santa Monica this past December.
In light of the rise in thefts, which occur “almost daily”, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has offered engraving services in La Crescenta, which personalizes the converters and makes them more identifiable during prosecution efforts by labeling them with identification numbers.
Car owners are encouraged by police to park in brightly-lit areas, typically near traffic, as well as having the option to purchase anti-theft devices to attach to their converters, or have their converters secured into their car’s frame by a muffler shop.