Local law enforcement in Fresno County has some advice for car owners hoping to protect themselves from catalytic converter theft, which has skyrocketed in the region and around the state.
Fresno has seen reports of 1,225 stolen catalytic converters this year through Oct. 18, up from 122 reports in all of 2020, police said. Residents of Clovis reported 185 cases through October 19, a six-fold increase from the previous year. Reports in Fresno County unincorporated areas have increased nearly five times, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
Police and mechanics say there are no truly foolproof ways to prevent theft, but slowing a thief can make them think twice before aiming at a car when they can easily switch to another vehicle without protections.
“The assumption is that it is a crime of expediency,” Clovis Police Lt. Jim Munro said. “There is no rhyme or reason. They did it everywhere.
A metal shield or other security measures slow down a thief, police say. The physical barriers around the auto part will make a converter fly in about 15 to 20 minutes of effort, which is about three or four times longer than an unprotected part, according to Givan Bznuni, owner of All Access Automotive in Fresno.
Here are some tips from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office:
- Park in a garage if possible. Thieves target vehicles parked in the aisles and on the streets.
- Use a tool to engrave your vehicle identification number (VIN) on your catalytic converter. Then take a picture of it. Some law enforcement agencies recommend the license plate number.
- Report to law enforcement if you see someone trying to sell these parts, either online or in a business.
- Always be skeptical of low prices.
- If you buy a catalytic converter at a store, have the employee view the part before installing it on your vehicle. The part must be new.
- Calibrate your car’s alarm to go off when it detects vibrations.
Burn the catalytic converter
Local law enforcement said it had partnered with Midas auto service centers in Fresno and Clovis to burn a license plate number on a car’s catalytic converter for free, assuming no work was done. necessary to access it.
Adding a distinctive sign allows the police to recognize it as stolen if it is already found in the possession of a thief. Fresno and Clovis Police also said they conduct routine patrols for officers specifically looking for thieves during times considered most likely to see stolen car parts.
Fresno Police Sgt. Diana Trueba Vega said that if the engraving is visible to the thief when he climbs under a car to steal the catalytic converter, he may decide that the part will be too difficult to sell and move on to another target.
To learn more about the program to burn converters, call a local Midas store, Sgt. Trueba Vega at 559-621-2751 or Clovis Police at 559-324-2800.