An increase in thefts of a specific car part in the city’s East Division has prompted authorities to alert residents to be on the lookout for individuals crawling underneath vehicles, or other suspicious activity.
A catalytic converter, which is a component of the vehicle’s exhaust system and vital for the emissions system to work correctly, can render a car inoperable once the device is removed and severely damage the engine if the car is driven, according to the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD).
While these specific thefts have been a continued problem for cities across the region, authorities said the city’s East Division has seen a recent increase.
From April 1 to June 10, about 41 catalytic converter thefts were reported in the East Division, which is bounded by Del Amo Boulevard to the north, the ocean shoreline to the south, OC cities to the east and Cherry Avenue and Signal Hill to the west.
Image courtesy of LBPD.
“These thefts can occur to any type of vehicle, at any time, and at any location,” LBPD Patrol Bureau Deputy Chief Wally Hebeish said in a statement on Tuesday. “We urge the community to report unusual or suspicious activity immediately.”
Authorities said the thieves sell the part to recycling centers and “unscrupulous muffler shops” for cash while victims can expect to pay anywhere between $500 to $2,000, plus labor and towing, for a repair.
Community members should be alert to people seen crawling underneath a vehicle and who sometimes have a getaway vehicle nearby, authorities said. While thefts mainly happen at nighttime, some have also taken place during the day, as a converter can be removed very quickly.
“The Police Department will continue to present catalytic converter theft cases to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and/or the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office as appropriate, in an effort obtain criminal filings against apprehended suspects,” officials said in a statement.
Theft victims are also encouraged to file a report, which can be completed online or by calling the Business Desk at (562) 570-7260. The LBPD also provided the following tips for residents:
• Invest in an anti-theft cable locking device, which are significantly less costly than replacing a catalytic converter
• Park your vehicle in your driveway or garage whenever possible
• Make arrangements for your vehicle if it will be left for an extended period of time
• Install motion sensor lighting around your home
• Get to know your neighbors so it’s easier to recognize persons that don’t belong in your neighborhood; neighbors that communicate are more likely to look out for one another
• Report loiterers; they may be casing the area
• Immediately report any suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1 and provide a vehicle description and/or license plate number if it can be safely obtained
• If you are a victim, speak with your mechanic about potentially spot welding or collapsing the bolt threads at the time of replacement; this could prevent a second theft.
Stephanie Rivera covers immigration and the north, west and central parts of Long Beach. Reach her at steph[email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.
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