Berkeley police alert drivers of recent spike in catalytic converter thefts

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Tiffany Nguyen/Staff

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An increase in catalytic converter theft has struck Berkeley in the past two weeks, according to a news release by the Berkeley Police Department. 

Catalytic converters are exhaust emission control devices that reduce toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas and are valuable because of the metals they contain, such as copper, nickel and platinum. 

The news release noted that there have been at least 14 thefts of catalytic converters since July 20, the majority of which have targeted Toyota Priuses because of the lightweight nature of the car. 

“It appears that criminals are taking advantage of the lighter weight of the Prius that makes it easier to lift with a vehicle floor jack,” the news release said.

Those stealing catalytic converters typically steal them by using a small portable reciprocating saw to cut the device off quickly from the underside of the vehicle. It can cost close to $2,000 to replace a missing catalytic converter, and it is illegal to drive a car without one. 

According to the news release, most thefts are occurring during the “early morning hours of darkness.” 

To avoid theft, police recommend parking in home garages, using or adding a motion-sensing light for parking in driveways and parking in well-lit areas when parking along the street.

Police are also encouraging residents to report suspicious activities immediately, such as a person working on the underside of a car at night accompanied by the sound of a power saw.

Contact Sydney Hilbush at [email protected].