Car burglars are after an essential piece of your car.

The catalytic converter, required by federal and state law as part of your emissions system, can contain valuable platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold. Quick-rip artists are on the rise in the West Valley and greater Mid-City areas, the LAPD warns.

If you get jacked, you could be in for a $400 to $1,400 replacement bill, police say:
Many cars will run okay without the converter. Most will sound horrible, though. You'll know right away if yours has been taken. And you can't pass DMV smog inspections without them.

Lt. Paul Weber of the LAPD's West Valley Division told us there were more catalytic converter thefts in January alone (more than 20) than there were in all of 2013 (17) in his area.

Thefts of the devices have been a problem for years, but Weber says the new wave involves crews that are quiet, efficient and somewhat professional:

We think it's more sophisticated now. At least in one case you could see marks of jack and clean, professional-looking cuts. They were in and out. The car was parked adjacent to the home where the person who owned it lived, and they didn't hear it. These guys know what they're doing.

He said adjacent LAPD divisions in the Valley have also seen an uptick in such crime. The targets are often Hondas, Acuras and Toyotas, police say. In the West Valley, 1998 to 2004 Honda Accords and sister Acura TLs are coveted.

In the LAPD's Wilshire Division area the targets have been, according to a recent statement, …

 … 1990s Toyota trucks, because they contain certain precious metals, especially platinum. 

Weber says thieves can turn the parts in for $200. Recyclers have been known to extract thousands of dollars worth of precious metal from the converters.

Credit: The converter is at the upper right. Photo by Thomas Anderson/Flickr.

Credit: The converter is at the upper right. Photo by Thomas Anderson/Flickr.

What to do?

The LAPD asks that you:

-Be vigilant about strangers who appear to be working on cars in your neighborhood. A guy on his back under a car might not be the owner.

-Keep your car in a garage if you can.

-If you have to park outdoors, do so in well-lit areas, in view of security cameras whenever possible.

-Get an audible alarm for your vehicle if it doesn't already have one.

-Some catalytic converters have bolts that can be welded on. Ask your mechanic about having that done.

-Put a number on the converter (your driver's license or vehicle identification number) so it can be tracked if police find it.

-Call the cops if you see someone hauling around random catalytic converters (they look like small mufflers).

If you have info on the thefts, police would love to hear from you: (818) 374-7611.
Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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