Chula Vista Police are engraving more than 100 catalytic converters to deter thieves

The Chula Vista Police Department teamed up with Southwestern College on Saturday to engrave 104 catalytic converters in an effort to deter thieves.

At the “Engrave and Save” community event, Chula Vista Police were able to engrave two times more catalytic converters than in previous events.

The goal is to make car parts more difficult to sell by engraving the vehicle’s identification number and then highlighting the numbers with neon paint, said Chula Vista Police Sgt. Anthony Molina. This way, the part can be traced back to the vehicle it came from.

On Saturday, students and teachers from the college’s automotive department helped lift four to five cars on the lifts at a time. Funding from the Chula Vista Police Foundation helped provide two new engraving tools to carve identification numbers.

“It’s just one strategy we have to combat catalytic converter theft,” he said. “The idea is that we want people to make themselves a harder target.”

Catalytic converter theft has increased across the country, and continues to trend upward in San Diego County. For example, in 2018, Molina said Chula Vista reported a catalytic converter stolen. But since then, the theft rate has risen to more than 100 each year.

California leads the nation in this type of theft, according to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit organization focused on insurance crime prevention.

Thieves are after what’s inside catalytic converters — platinum, rhodium and palladium, which are rare earth metals more valuable than gold, according to the nonprofit. The stolen catalytic converters are then sold for hundreds of dollars to junk yards or recycling centers where they can be melted down to extract metals.

Vehicles frequently targeted include the Toyota Prius, Honda Element, Honda Accord, Ford Econoline, Honda CRV, Ford F-250, Toyota Tundra, Toyota Sequoia, Ford Excursion, and Toyota Tacoma.

Even if people can’t come to an “Engrave and Save” event, they can ask a mechanic for help or do it themselves to fight this crime, Molina said.

The Chula Vista Police Department first announced Saturday’s event on social media, and appointments filled up quickly.

The department hosts these events every few months, but there is no set date for the next one, Molina said. Chula Vista residents who would like to participate in future engraving events should fill out the department’s online interest form and check social media (@ChulaVistaPD) for updates.

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