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Catalytic-converter thefts on rise in Palo Alto

Original post made on Jun 12, 2012

Thieves are targeting catalytic converters on the Peninsula and three thefts were reported in Palo Alto Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9, according to police.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 9:35 AM

Comments (29)

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Posted by boob
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

Is there an easy way to booby trap your car so the thief gets a nasty shock or burn before they get the converter off?


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Posted by Be Safe
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:17 am

Booby traps are a really bad idea. You are far more likely to kill your mechanic than a thief. If you want to take action, install a silent alarm which alerts you when the exhaust system is tampered with. This creates the opportunity to send the thief to prison.


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Posted by Scott
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

Booby traps may also be illegal, despite how satisfying it may be to think about setting one.


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Put a nice crisp $50 biil in a Ziploc freezer bag, seal the bag, securely attach it to the catalytic converter -- in plain sight -- with a polite note suggesting that the cash may be removed if the car parts are left behind.

Honor system.


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Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm

How much are we talking about? What is a Toyota Cat. Conv. worth on the Black market?


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Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Taping enything flamable (inflamable, love it) to a Cat. Conv. results in a nice little cozy fire. THEY GET HOT! The $50 would really get crispy!


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Reconsidering the high-temperature melty problem.

Plan B: A $50 IOU written on a NASA space shuttle heat shield tile?

It might work. Not sure anyone has ever accused scrap metal thieves of being brain trusts.


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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

"Booby traps may also be illegal, despite how satisfying it may be to think about setting one."

Booby traps are only illegal if the body is found.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I'm also curious about the black market worth of the catalytic converters. There's a lot of older model Toyota trucks around given that they're total workhorses, er, workponies.

What's the fastest someone could remove a catalytic converter? I hope these jerks get caught.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm

> What's the fastest someone could remove a catalytic converter?

Good point. How long to remove and how many people likely needed to do the job?

These things need a market. Unfortunately, they can be shipped out of the area and out of the reach of local law enforcement.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm

These types of thefts are generally organized & done by more than one person. I remember a co-worker whose Honda was stolen locally & chop shopped in Stockton. I'd think it would take longer in the dark.

My neighbor's old Toyota truck was stolen off the street & recovered a month later. It was sitting nicely in a parking lot in Redwood City & had some moving boxes in back - they'd likely used it just for a move. Me, I would've rented a moving truck.


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Posted by DDee
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm

My Toyota T-100 got hit just last week. The insurance adjuster said that it takes one person about five or six minutes if they have experience. My cat converter with the front portion of the exhaust was gone and all 4 bolts and the pipe seal left behind on the ground. Very neat.

It was all there when I got home and went inside at 4am on Sunday/Monday morning, and was gone when I came back out at 11:30am.

The truck was not only in the driveway, but at the very rear of the property where it couldn't be seen from the street by a passer-by.
It would have to have been targeted earlier by someone who knew a Totyota owner lived on the property... or by the garbage pickup or the gardener, who were the only outside people anyone remembers on the property that morning.

My very expensive advice to other Toyota owners out there (wish I had known this before the insurance deductible and hassle taught it to me!)... take your vehicle to a body shop now and have them weld the converter in place. If yours is an oldie but goodie like mine, the conveerter will outlive the rest of the vehicle so welding it in place wold not be an issue.

Oh, and the theft happened near the Newell bridge/Woodland intersection. I would suggest that the East PA and PA police work this problem together.


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Posted by Carrie
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Park your pit bull or wrap your boa constrictor around your wheel well should solve it. One or the other should take a bite out of them.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm

It's a non-violent crime. Does anyone ever go to jail for theft anymore? Weird risk/reward equation.


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Posted by PasserBy
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm

It's not the black market they are looking to dump these on. There are a lot of precious and expensive metals inside those converters that they are after.


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Posted by JP Drum
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I know that Muffler World (Pat Karl in the owner) in Sunnyvale will weld on some rebar for $20 that will make it much more difficult to remove the converter. A friend of mine had it done to her Toyota truck after hearing reports of others getting theirs ripped off.


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Carrie,

Great suggestions, but:

Boa constrictors don't "take a bite out of someone",
they "make a bite out of someone."


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

"Honor system."

You gotta be kidding me. The guy is crawling under my truck to steal from me, and I expect him to be honorable? That's like expecting a rattlesnake to appreciate being petted.

Hmmm, I have not been on in a while, nice to see you are still here.

If you have multiple vehicles and one is a Toyota truck, park that one in the safest spot, on your driveway. Leave your BMW on the street. Is people start putting in video surveillance systems watching their property, and their neighbors public property, perhaps we can get some idea of who these guys are and aid their capture. Help the police and they will help you.


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Posted by El Oh El
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

Non-city video cameras filming/ on public property is illegal. Sorry guys, but you "smart" people are suggesting a police state/ city. The last thing we need is having punks in black/blue suits having more of a power-trip than they already do.

Take initiative yourself, pretty sure you should only be worried if your car does not have an alarm/ is older. Some of you guys sit on paloaltoonline.com ritually, and live your lives by what it feeds you. Palo Alto is not a scary city, you can walk on the street anywhere in the city at any hour of the night.


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm

One more reason to go... ELECTRIC! No catalytic converter, no oil change, no coolant change, much lower maintenance than a dead dinosaur-fueled automobile.


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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm

As for leaving a "bribe" for the thief not to take the auto part...aside from the fire issues, what's to prevent the thief from taking both the money and the part? DUH!


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Just read about one stolen in Redwood City recently. Are thieves only after the platinum? I'm going to refer friends w/Toyota trucks to the auto shop in Sunnyvale.


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

litebug + JustMe --

"Honor system."

It was a joke.

Maybe next time.


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Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Since no one seems to have a clue as to the money made by these thieves, I looked up www.sellyourcatsdirect.com and found a nice pictorial catalog of cats and their selling price. From $20 to $170, looks like Toyota truck cats bring $75 to $85 if complete. Welding may deter them but a battery powered cutter will remove them in two shakes of a lambs tail. Buy a Ford, no one seems to be stealing em from American Iron.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Why did you think no one had a clue about the value? I've known for a long time that the value ranges, depending on if they're harvested for precious metals or resold as is on the black market. People sell them on eBay, to smelters & scrapyards all over the place. People have been doing so for years but the problem w/this article is that it's, as usual, so Palo Alto-centric that is gives no idea as to the number of thefts in the surrounding area. Is your old Toyota safe when you visit friends, run errands, leave it in an unsecured work parking lot?


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Posted by Pat
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm

When I lived east of 101, the battery in my roommate's station wagon got stolen while it was parked in the driveway. He put a big honking chain and padlock on the hood so it couldn't be opened very far. I suppose they could have used bolt cutters but didn't. How do they get past the hood-lock on modern cars, or do they damage the hoods too?


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Pat - for a catalytic converter, you go underneath the car. While the thief can get more easily trapped that way, they're also more easily hidden, especially if you drive by. A penlight is less likely seen under a car, too.


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Posted by Cat lover
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm

What's all this talk about stolen cats? I have several and I can't give them away. And so far as I know they don't have any platinum in them.


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Posted by lenehey
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

Moi wrote: "Put a nice crisp $50 biil in a Ziploc freezer bag, seal the bag, securely attach it to the catalytic converter -- in plain sight -- with a polite note suggesting that the cash may be removed if the car parts are left behind. "

Bad, bad idea. Even if there was such a thing as honor among thieves, your ziplock bag would melt and then ignite, and your money would simply burn off. Catalytic converts get extremely hot in normal use -- well in excess of 500F.


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