Several catalytic converters have been reported stolen in Mountain View this month, with thieves dismantling or sawing off the car parts for the precious metals contained inside.
Four catalytic converter thefts were reported between Sept. 5 and 13, the Mountain View Police Department confirmed Tuesday. In a fifth case, the resident reported that their catalytic converter had been tampered with but not stolen, according to police spokeswoman Katie Nelson.
The thefts are part of a growing Bay Area trend, with criminals frequently targeting cars at night using handheld power tools to quickly cut off catalytic converters located in the undercarriage of vehicles. The stolen parts can reportedly be resold for as much as $250 for the valuable metals inside, including platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, according to the car-buying website Edmunds.
Nelson said the department is not releasing details on how the catalytic converters were stolen in Mountain View, stating they do not want to give other potential thieves ideas on how to steal car parts.
"What we can say is, if your car begins to make loud noises as you are driving, check to see if your catalytic converter is still in place," she said.
The Berkeley Police Department released a statement in July warning residents that 14 vehicles had their catalytic converters stolen in 11 days, and that criminals targeted a Toyota Prius in a majority of the cases. In those cases, the thieves would often use a portable saw to cut off the converter and make a getaway within minutes.
The Toyota Prius may be a target because of its light weight, making it easier to lift the vehicle with a floor jack, according to the statement. Nelson said older Honda and Toyota models have also been targeted in the past.
In order to prevent the thefts, Nelson said the department is advising residents to park in well-lit areas and, if possible, park inside garages rather than on the street. Home surveillance can also help to identify suspects in the event that there is a theft or attempted theft, she said.
Multiple residents on the neighborhood social media site Nextdoor reported catalytic converter thefts in August as well, including one incident that led to the arrest of four suspects allegedly involved in a counterfeiting scheme at a nearby hotel.
Repairing a vehicle and replacing a stolen catalytic converter can exceed $1,000, though car insurance plans may cover the costs.