SAN JOSE (KRON) – The San Jose Police Department announced a new program Monday to deter thefts of catalytic converters, which have been increasing in the Bay Area.

American catalytic converters, located on the underside of cars, have had rhodium, a valuable metal, since the mid-1970s. Often, thieves try to steal the converter for the rhodium. The device is meant to clean pollutants and prevent them from entering the atmosphere.

Just last week KRON4 reported (https://www.kron4.com/news/bay-area/concord-police-looking-for-alleged-thieves-targeting-cars-who-shot-victim/) on several suspects who allegedly fired on a car owner in the East Bay city of Concord as they attempted to steal his catalytic converter.

The program, called Etch and Protect, is a collaboration between the police department and the San Jose Police Foundation. Auto mechanics have been enlisted to etch the vehicle license plate numbers, and other identifying information, on catalytic converters for free while conducting routine vehicle maintenance. 

“The San Jose Police Foundation will purchase the paint and etching supplies for auto mechanics to use,” a news release Monday states. “Placing identifying information on a catalytic converter deters thieves. It also makes it more difficult for them to recycle the catalytic converter.”

The news release notes that catalytic converter thefts “are on the rise nationwide,” and the lack of identifying markings – as well as their value and “the east with which converters can be stolen” – make them ripe targets. 

The car part can be exchanged with metal recyclers for up to several hundred dollars. However, replacing the part can cost over $1,000.

“We are very grateful to the participating auto repair shops for their partnership in supporting this important program,” stated San Jose Chief of Police Anthony Mata. “We hope this effort deters catalytic converter thefts, which are having a serious impact on our local community.” 

Capitol Honda at 745 Capitol Expressway, Speedee-Midas at 1825 E. Capitol Expressway and Stevens Creek Toyota at 4202 Stevens Creek Boulevard are all already participating. 

The San Jose Police Department is recommending the following steps to prevent catalytic converter thefts:

  • “Park your vehicle inside your garage or in a secure side yard,
  • If you have to park outside, leave on exterior lights or install motion detector lights.
  • Get your catalytic converter etched with your license plate number. San Jose and Catch Department’s Etch and Protect Program partners will provide free etching of your license plate number on your catalytic converter while they are doing other maintenance work on your vehicle and have the car on a lift.
  • Install a cage around your catalytic converter or have additional metal welded to your exhaust system. This makes it more difficult for thieves to remove the catalytic converter.
  • Report suspicious activity in your neighborhood. If you see a crime in progress, call 9-1-1. Call 408-277-8900 to report suspicious activity.”