In the wake of an unprecedented spike in catalytic converter thefts this year, the Simi Valley Police Department hosted a public information session addressing the issue this week.
Wednesday evening's event, streamed via Zoom, was hosted by Detective Sgt. Patrick Zayicek of the department's property crimes unit. Although the problem of catalytic converter thefts is not unique to Simi Valley, the city has seen a rapid increase so far this year.
In the first quarter of 2022 alone, Simi Valley police have responded to 121 catalytic converter thefts, Zayicek said. The number was nearly as much as the 138 thefts reported for all of 2020 and was on track to exceed the 200 incidents recorded last year.
For perspective, the number of catalytic converter thefts reported between 2011 and 2019 was 125.
Zayicek said the problem was being driven by theft crews from outside the county who target random areas and typically hit during the early morning hours when residents are asleep.
"There's no set pattern for where it's occurring," Zayicek said. "It's all over town."
Although the location of the thefts didn't follow a pattern, the types of vehicles targeted by thieves did.
Zayicek said the most frequently targeted vehicles were Toyotas, especially the Prius, Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia models; Hondas, especially Elements, Accords and CRVs; Fords, with F150-F550 trucks, Econolines and Excursions targeted; and lastly Dodge trucks and Lexus RX SUVs.
The converters are stolen for the precious metals inside, including platinum, palladium and rhodium. The units are sold to recycling centers and "fence" shops, which buy stolen goods from thieves and resell them for a profit.
"These fencing shops are difficult to locate," Zayicek said, adding they are increasingly being found online through sites like Craigslist, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace.
Echoing advice from other law enforcement agencies, Zayicek concluded the information session with advice to help residents avoid becoming victims.
Police recommend parking cars in a closed garage if possible, especially if you own a targeted model. Residents who can't park in a garage are encouraged to park in a well-lit area with security cameras.
Another deterrent is installing an aftermarket cage or shield. While the devices can be cut through with burglary tools, the extra time and effort involved could prompt a theft crew to look elsewhere. They typically cost hundreds of dollars, though the cost is less than replacing a catalytic converter.
Zayciek also highlighted the department's new "etch-and-catch" program, with over a dozen auto care shops in the city adding a vehicle's license plate number and police logo to the converter. The etched units can be traced back to the owner if stolen and possibly deter theft in the first place. The program is paid for by the Simi Valley Police Foundation and is offered to Simi Valley residents free of charge.
For those who couldn't attend the community forum, a recording of the session will be uploaded to the city of Simi Valley's YouTube channel in coming weeks.
List of 'Etch-and-Catch' participants:
1st Collision Center, 1001 Cochran St.
A&D Automotive, 2050 Sinaloa Road
Affordable Auto, 2020 Donville Ave.
Bill's Quality Auto Care, 2016 Donville Ave.
Brake Masters, 1842 E. Los Angeles Ave.
Caliber Collision, 390 Easy St., Suite A
Championship Muffler, 1842 E. Los Angeles Ave.
Dave’s Towing, 890 W. Los Angeles Ave.
Kean's Auto Service, 2399 Tapo St.
Less Auto Repair, 2243 Agate Court
Midas, 820 E. Los Angeles Ave.
Perry’s Quality Auto, 2180 First St.
Simi Valley Ford, 2440 First St.
Simi Valley Tire Pros, 4386 Los Angeles Ave.
Schneider's Auto, 607 Los Angeles Ave.
The Body Shop Inc.,2463 Tapo St.
Jeremy Childs is a breaking news and public safety reporter covering the night shift for the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by calling 805-437-0208 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Twitter @Jeremy_Childs.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Simi Valley police address catalytic converter thefts at forum