Will new state laws curb thefts of catalytic converters? | October 21, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - October 21, 2022

Will new state laws curb thefts of catalytic converters?

Hundreds have been pilfered in Palo Alto and surrounding cities — at considerable cost to car owners

by Sue Dremann/Palo Alto Weekly and Grace Gedye/CalMatters

Sue Feeley was asleep in her Crescent Park home in Palo Alto on Oct. 8 when the sound of grinding metal woke her at 2:30 a.m. — and it wasn't subtle.

This story contains 2927 words.

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Email Staff Writer Sue Dremann at sdremann@paweekly.com.


Posted by Seer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2022 at 8:21 am

Seer is a registered user.

Last line was absurdist: resident now never leaves home and saves money and avoids crime. How about refunding the police and putting theives in chain gangs serving the public good.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2022 at 10:52 am

M is a registered user.

Same story here. It happened in late Aug. My Honda was parked in front of our house in Old Palo Alto. I woke about 3:00AM to a screeching sound. I saw a car waiting in the street, but by the time I found my phone they had pulled away. So, if you hear a metal screech, don't take time to look first, call the police.

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2022 at 11:23 am

Green Gables is a registered user.

I don't get it; doesn't everyone have a garage? Too many cars and not enough room in the garage? Too much junk in the garage? Clean out the garage or add another room to store your junk.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2022 at 11:38 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Green Gables, remember that people are encouraged to convert their garages into ADUs and there are no parking allowances made for ADU tenants. Also developers are pushing to eliminate or reduce parking requirements so they can pack in even more people into the same space.

Bottom line: expect the problem to get worse, not better.

Posted by Local news junkie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 21, 2022 at 11:40 am

Local news junkie is a registered user.

@ Green Gables
In an ideal world, all of us could use our garages solely for our cars, as you suggest. But those of us in smaller houses (mine is 1,200 square feet), using the garage for storage, an exercise room, or a workshop, etc., is essential. We don’t all have the money or want the bother of adding another room!

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2022 at 11:55 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Green Gables - I can't tell if you're being sarcastic. No, not everyone has a garage. In fact, many people in Palo Alto do not.

This type of response is rhetorical retreat and it places blame on the victim rather than the evil and greedy perpetrators.

The world today is very different than it was decades ago. Most households have two parents who work. Unless those individuals work nearby or at the same general location (and the same hours), then many of those households feel a need to have two cars.

Besides, blaming the victim is wrong. This is akin to blaming a rape victim for wearing clothes that are "too revealing." The issue is the crime.

What motivates these vile and greedy criminals from taking what does not belong to them? Who is buying the stolen catalytic converters?

If they are simply being resold to mechanics, then I'd like to make it illegal for a mechanic to install a catalytic converter that is registered to another vehicle (under penalty of law).

If the raw materials are being taken and sold, then I think that it would help by requiring the companies that buy such things to reject both catalytic converters or any materials that are clearly taken from them. In addition, you can limit the amount of those materials that are allowed to be recycled per week.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2022 at 12:28 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

The FEDERAL government has authority to regulate car MANUFACTURERS to etch the catalytic converters before they are installed on the assembly line where it is much cheaper to do this work (a cost that will be significantly more at the dealer and, as the article mentions, is passed on to consumers).

This is a big problem in California right now because adoption of electric and hybrid cars has been faster here, but it will be a problem in other states too as they transition.

If the the federal government Department of Transportation is serious about helping people transition to lower emission vehicles, this is something they could do to help that would be much lower cost to the consumer than having it etched at the dealer. The guy in charge is:

DOT Secretary Pete Buttegieg
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590

If car manufacturers were smart, they'd just do it on their own to serve their customers better. Write to them too.

This kind of legislation makes me frustrated. What if Gov. Newsom's office staff had picked up the phone and called DOT contacts to consider options at the fed level? Understand how government works. Pick the right people at the right level at the right time to make change that works.

In the meantime, I'm clearing parking space in my garage.

Posted by Eli P
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Eli P is a registered user.

Unfair expense for victims. The key law should be that a victim of converter theft can bypass and drive without it. The overall damage to the environment from a small set of victims is small. Then we need drastic solution to curtail theft. Tracking device? Special ink that spreads on the thief? The best is to invent converters that don't use precious materials. For new car buyers: get an electric car.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2022 at 11:44 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Parking your car in the garage is common sense.

Posted by Robert Daniels
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2022 at 12:20 pm

Robert Daniels is a registered user.

My uncle has the ignition coil wired to the catalytic converter on his car.

If a thief tries to steal it and touches any part of the converter or muffler system, they will get zapped by several thousand DC volts...harmless but painful.

Posted by John
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2022 at 5:18 am

John is a registered user.

I love all the Electrical zapping/ink spraying ideas. I’ve got a better one. If thieves knew that upon conviction they’d do at least 5-10 years in prison, the number of thefts would crater, either through fear of a cage or actually caging them. But this community was adamant about reducing the penalties for theft and (shockingly) there’s lots more theft now.

Posted by Local news junkie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 25, 2022 at 11:38 am

Local news junkie is a registered user.

@ Jennifer
Not everyone has a garage. Many of the thousands of Eichler homes in PA have only car ports, so cars are exposed. These thieves sound brazen enough to take advantage of that. And many apartment dwellers have to park on the street because of a lack of adequate parking spaces at their complexes.

Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2022 at 3:22 pm

staying home is a registered user.

this crime exists because there is a secondary market for the stolen goods. Stamp the VIN into the converter at the factory and legislate the seller/buyer validate it is not stolen before selling and installation. This is done with many consumer goods already.

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