Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise—and apparently the costly metals found inside are precious enough to warrant risking one’s life for.
Victims who are about to head off to work for the day start their car to find it has become extremely loud without the sound muffling device, while others come out to find that a thief has been crushed under their car due to a failed jack stand.
That’s what happened when Anaheim police were called to the 1600 block of North Placentia Avenue early March 17, where they found a man wedged underneath a Toyota Prius, crushed to death by the weight of the vehicle while apparently attempting to steal the car’s catalytic converter.
Three more deaths involving a catalytic converter theft occurred March 12, when two men inside a Dodge Ram 1500 truck that was being chased by police crashed into another vehicle then veered through a block wall where it landed upside down in a residential swimming pool.
Both men inside the truck, Joseph Mendoza, 24, and Sal Fernandez, 34, were pronounced dead when officers discovered them in the pool. Michael Clugston, who was in the other vehicle, was also found dead.
After searching the destroyed truck, police found a catalytic converter, a power saw, and a pistol. Mendoza and Fernandez were chased after police saw them speeding through a parking lot and they failed to pull over.
The trend of catalytic converter thefts isn’t unique to Orange County.
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant on March 17 on a resident they suspected of running a catalytic converter fencing operation.
After searching the home, police said they found approximately 400 catalytic converters worth an estimated $400,000, as well as a stolen vehicle on the property.
Converter thefts continue to be on the rise in Orange County, where reported stolen catalytic converter thefts totaled 86 last November, 77 last December, and 108 in January, according to the latest figures from the OCSD.
In Orange County, police haven’t found more than a few stolen converters in any single bust, an OCSD spokesperson said.