Drivers of certain electric, hybrid and cleaner fuel-burning cars are warned that thieves are after a particular part underneath the car, leading Takoma Park, Maryland, to launch a program to help deter the theft.
The catalytic converter is the part that removes some of the toxic emissions from the car’s exhaust through a chemical process. Thieves are after the metal components of the catalytic converter that make the process possible.
“They got rhodium, they got palladium and they got platinum,” Mike Cunningham, of Bethesda Import Specialists, said.
Cunningham explained that some of those metals go for thousands of dollars per ounce. More than a few of his customers have come in after they’ve been hit.
“We’ve had people that have asked us when they get the cat replaced, ‘Can you go ahead and etch the serial number into the catalytic converter?’” Cunningham asked.
It’s one method of deterring theft, “so wherever it turns up in some salvage yard, hopefully, somebody does the right thing,” he said.
The town of Takoma Park is planning on going even further to deter thefts with a system they call “etch and catch.”
A sticker on the windshield warns a would-be thief that going after a tagged car’s catalytic converter may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Many Takoma Park Priuses have been targeted, so local police have partnered with RS Automotive to do the etching and painting starting Oct. 8.
There are other deterrents available, including a plate that will function as a “shield” and make it a harder, more time-consuming task to take the catalytic converter.
Takoma Park authorities want the free program to catch on and catch thieves.
RS Automotive will do the etching and painting on a first-come, first-served basis from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. on Oct. 8. After those hours, drivers will have to make an appointment.
The Takoma Park Police Department website has more information.