La Verne faces a rash of catalytic converter thefts

Pedro Isao Mori
Staff Writer

A series of catalytic converter thefts have occurred on or close to the University of La Verne’s campus recently. So far six cases have been reported to Campus Safety, with four of them occurring in campus lots or structures. 

The most recent incident was April 19, when two suspects were seen on camera driving into the parking structure and approaching a vehicle. 

Because of the spot the car was parked in, the cameras did not capture the suspects actually stealing the part.. The only information obtained was the license plate of the vehicle the suspects drove into the parking structure. 

A catalytic converter is a car part that takes carbon monoxide and converts it to less dangerous carbon dioxide. Thieves target them because they contain precious metals like rhodium and platinum, which fetch high prices when resold. According to Director of University Safety Operations Ruben Ibarra, this type of theft is fairly easy, which is why it has become common here and across the state. It takes just a few minutes for suspects to remove the part and leave the site.

“This is something that is happening all across California,” Ibarra said. “It’s extremely easy to target because of how simple it is for them to steal a catalytic converter.” 

Despite the fact that Campus Safety is headquartered in the D Street Parking Structure, thieves were still able to get away with the part on April 19. 

Ibarra said Campus Safety is not short-staffed. It is just hard to limit this kind of crime because of its nature, he said. 

Campus Safety officer Charles Stevens said there seems to be a pattern where suspects target cars parked in locations that are just outside of camera view or in areas that are obstructed by trees. Therefore, most of these thefts have not been caught on camera. He added there is currently no evidence that proves this April theft was an inside job.

The local thefts are part of a growing trend across the nation. According to data from the insurance company State Farm, catalytic converter thefts increased by 293% nationwide between July 2020 and June 2021, compared with the previous one-year period. 

To deal with increasing catalytic converter thefts in California, the state legislature is considering a bill which, among other things, would require car dealers to put vehicle identification numbers on catalytic converters themselves and require vendors to keep track of all converters sold at store. Senate Bill 919, authored by state Sen. Brian W. Jones, R-Santee, is making its way through the legislative process. 

For now, Ibarra recommends that people park in well-lit areas where there is a “large flow” of people. Campus Safety also patrols the D Street structure at least once an hour to keep an eye out for attempted robberies. People with large cars or slightly older cars should also be careful because their catalytic converters are easier to steal.

Pedro Isao Mori can be reached at pedro.mori@laverne.edu.

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