The Toyota Prius has been a frequent target of catalytic converter thieves. A Rafu Shimpo staffer who owns a Prius was victimized twice, once while parked in front of his home in Gardena and once while parked near the office in L.A.’s Arts District.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Oct. 4 that he is asking automobile manufacturers to work with him to explore creative solutions to address the rise in catalytic converter thefts across the county and the nation.

“Catalytic converters are quick and easy to steal, and thieves can quickly turn them into cash,” Gascón said. “In addition, the lack of unique identifiers makes it virtually impossible to prove in court that a particular catalytic converter was stolen.”

“These thefts are costly to vehicle owners and result in higher insurance claims for us all,” Gascón said, urging automobile manufacturers to join him in seeking “to develop creative and inexpensive solutions to substantially prevent these crimes from occurring and reduce the likelihood of victimization in Los Angeles County and the rest of the nation.”

Gascón has reached out to the four major automobile manufacturers to request their help in finding a solution to this nationwide problem. To date, only Torrance-based Honda Motor Company, Ltd., has expressed interest in exploring possible solutions to reduce these thefts that target all vehicle owners.

There has been a sharp rise in catalytic converter thefts nationwide since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. California is among the top five states for catalytic converter thefts, according to the agency.

Catalytic converters are used to turn hazardous exhaust from an automobile into less harmful gases. Thieves steal the converters because the devices are made of highly valuable metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. They can fetch up to $1,200 each.

Gascón led a similar effort to reduce cell phone theft when he was the top prosecutor in San Francisco. He sponsored legislation making California the first state requiring kill switches on cell phones that make the device inoperable if it is stolen.

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