In the past few years, the Toyota Prius has become known as a top target for thieves who are after catalytic converters.
In Alexandria Monday, one thief may have met his match in a man who was looking out for his friend's car.
The owner of a Prius said her catalytic converter was stolen in February.
“I learned from the police that it’s not a matter of if they will be back, it’s a matter of when,” she said. “So, it happens time and time again.”
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
Early Monday evening before dark, her friend noticed a car make a U turn in a parking lot and stop behind the Prius. He jumped into action.
“So, the individual got out of the car, crawled underneath the car … and I saw his legs,” he said. “And he was under, and that’s when I started kicking him. He crawled out of the car, I grabbed a hold of him, he took off running down the sidewalk.”
He said he got a good look at the getaway car.
Northern Virginia news, events and updates
After the February incident, the owner of the Prius had a special shield installed to protect the catalytic converter, making it difficult to steal.
The same night a Prius at a nearby service station was targeted for its catalytic converter.
There has been a rash of such thefts across the region. The number of Prius catalytic converter thefts nationwide increased 40-fold between 2016 and 2020, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In Fairfax County alone, there have been 303 auto part thefts so far this year, including catalytic converters, tires, airbags and other assorted parts.
Priuses with model years 2004-2009 are top targets. Their catalytic converters contain precious metals that can bring up to $1,000 when resold.
Repairing and replacing the catalytic converter runs more than $2,000. Putting in a shield is just $500 for the part and installation. Police also recommend always parking in a well-lit area and etching or painting the VIN number into the catalytic converter.