Petty thieves

Dear Editor:I would like to share some information with Downey residents hoping this would help someone avoid being a victim of this new criminal trend. About a month ago I took my truck to have a smog check done on it, and after the technician did a close inspection on my truck he told me that he can tell that I didn't park my truck on the street overnight and I said to him that is correct how can you tell? He went on to explain the reason he knew was because my truck still had the factory original catalytic converter and then he told me that they're stealing them from certain vehicles and at the top of the list are Toyotas, which I own one. Any vehicle that sits 12 inches from the ground or higher should be considered vulnerable because it will have enough room for a person to slide underneath the vehicle and be able to unbolt the catalytic converter. It will take an average of three minutes to have it removed and very likely your car alarm will not be triggered. The catalytic converter is a very important component of the pollution control system of a car and is also very expensive, about $1,000 for a factory original unit. The life span of this device is about 200,000 miles on a good operating condition engine. You can buy an aftermarket unit which is a lot cheaper but also a much lower quality and therefore shorter life. Unfortunately, due to environmental regulations, you can not buy a used catalytic from a wrecking yard. By law they have to be destroyed and recycled. The catalytic converter is bolted to the exhaust pipe of the car. They're two methods to steal it: one is taking the bolts out with a socket wrench and two is cutting the exhaust pipe with a battery operated cutting tool. The fastest way to know if you were a victim of this crime is to start the engine and if it sounds extremely loud, like you lost your muffler, more than likely your catalytic converter is gone. These petty thieves will only get between $40 to $50 at a scrap yard for every converter. It may seem an odd thing to steal, but there is a reason behind it, and that is the platinum they have in them. Platinum is a very expensive metal and I believe is a little bit higher than gold right now. Metalsmiths have a sophisticated process to extract the platinum from these devices. Once they do that they will have few hundred dollars worth of platinum from a single catalytic converter. I asked my smog check technician for ways to prevent this from happening and he recommended to take my truck to a muffler shop and have them weld the nuts in place and if I wanted to go the extra mile have them weld a strip of metal (1/4"x 1") all along the exhaust pipe that would make it harder to cut the pipe. An extra security measure will be using a metal engraver to engrave the license plate of your vehicle on the catalytic converter to make it traceable that would be very helpful to police investigators if it comes to that point. A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine who lives in the city of Cerritos was part of the statistics. He parked his Toyota truck at his driveway overnight and early in the morning he sadly discovered his catalytic converter was gone, and this is why I felt the need to share this information with the residents of our city. -- Victor M. Malagon, Downey

********** Published: November 25, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 32