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Catalytic Converter Thieves Are Back


An uptick in the number of catalytic converters stolen from vehicles is occurring again in downtown Santa Barbara as several cases have been reported in the past few weeks at various locations. The police department last saw a rise in October 2013 and in December 2012, according to police spokesperson Sergeant Riley Harwood, and Toyota trucks remain the most popular targets.

In general, trucks are hit most often because it is easier to get to the catalytic converters beneath them, though most gas vehicles made since the 1970s have the smog scrubbers and can be victimized. It only takes about a minute for a thief take a catalytic converter, which police believe are usually done with a cordless sawzall. Thefts typically occur in the middle of the night, Harwood said, and a trio of thieves caught in 2012 were from out of the area. The parts have precious metals inside of them — such as palladium and rhodium — which can be worth more than gold.

A Santa Barbara resident named Marvin, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, found his catalytic converter had been stolen recently from his 1996 Toyota 4-Runner while parked on Sola Street. It cost him $300 to replace it. Marvin said there are ways to prevent such thefts, for instance, using a CatStrap theft deterrent and alarm system, which can be self-installed.

According to recent crime data from Santa Barbara’s police department, robberies in general have steadily declined in the past five years. Through October, 45 cases of robbery were reported this year in the city, which is a 33 percent decrease compared to the same time period in 2013 and 49 percent lower in the same period in 2012. Property crimes are also much lower, including theft and burglary from vehicles in general.

The bad news in the data is that narcotics detectives report an abundance of methamphetamine because the cost of meth is currently low. Since 2013, police arrested more people for meth than for any other drug, including marijuana.

Also, bike collisions have trended upward — there was a 19 percent increase in collisions compared to the same time period the year prior and a 29 percent increase compared to the same period in 2012.

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