GARDEN GROVE, Calif.—To help mitigate the risk of catalytic converter thefts, State Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) joined representatives from the Automobile Club of Southern California and Service Garden Grove Police Department at Buddy’s Auto Tires And More to engrave vehicle registration numbers on converters for free.
The prints are part of a community effort, occurring at 16 other Orange County and Los Angeles County Auto Club-approved vehicle repair shops.
Catalytic converter etching involves marking the vehicle’s license plate number on the exposed converters located in the exhaust system under the vehicle. The process takes about 15 minutes per vehicle, according to the Auto Club, and involves raising the car onto a lift to make it easier for the engravers to access.
“It’s very exciting,” said one onlooker as she watched mechanics finish engravings on back-to-back vehicles in the workshop.
In addition to rendering the vehicle inoperable, Umberg said many voters struggled to pay to replace the part and repair damage from a stolen converter.
“Paying to replace the part and repair the damage…can be costly and cost thousands of dollars,” Umberg told The Epoch Times.
Catalytic converters contain precious metals, some of which are worth more than gold, making them a prime target for thieves.
In fact, as of 2020, more than 1,200 catalytic converters are stolen on average every month in California alone, according to a study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit organization aimed at fighting fraud and crime. to insurance.
Doug Shupe, a spokesman for the California Auto Club, said the damages extend beyond the initial damage from theft and the cost of replacing the converter, since only “comprehensive” auto insurance will cover repair costs and of substitution.
Those with only partial coverage are responsible for out-of-pocket costs, according to Shupe, in addition to the costs of smog checks their car would fail if more expensive repairs were not made beyond a simple one. cheaper repair.
One such victim is Garden Grove resident Corwin Brown, a retired environmental health specialist who had his converter stolen in early May at the Buena Park Mall. The thieves did so much damage to Brown’s car that the repairs exceeded $6,000, Brown said.
“My partner of [over] 30 year old jumped out of his seat when I started the engine,” Brown told The Epoch Times, describing the loud noise emanating from the vehicle immediately after the theft.
With the converters out of stock after an increase in thefts, it took Brown a month to get his car back after repairs.
According to Brown, his tow truck driver had already helped more than 50 other people who also had their converters stolen the previous month.
Auto Club statistics show even steeper increases, with claims data from the company alone showing a more than 98% increase in converter thefts from 2020 to 2021.
“It’s already a difficult time with rising costs. high gasoline prices and [now] getting an auto part like this stolen that could cost you $3,000 or more to replace,” Auto Club spokesman Doug Shupe told The Epoch Times. “It’s a frustrating time for vehicle owners.”
Umberg sponsored a state resolution this week declaring Catalytic Converter Theft Awareness Week, among additional efforts to crack down on theft, as well as a new Senate bill.
Umberg Senate Bill 986 prohibits a dealer or retailer from selling a new or used vehicle equipped with a catalytic converter unless the converter has been etched or etched with the serial number. vehicle identification.
It would deter thieves from selling stolen converters by streamlining traceability back to the original owner, Umberg said, allowing law enforcement to pursue thefts more effectively.
The bill is currently making its way through the state legislature, having already passed several commissions. Representatives from Umberg’s office say they are “confident” the bill will pass.