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Catalytic converters stolen from vehicles in Lompoc

Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 22:08:10-04

The Lompoc Unified School District has been hit by thieves and vandals twice now this month.

Over the weekend, the school district said eight district vehicles, including maintenance trucks and student transport vans, were missing catalytic converters.

According to Lompoc police, another citizen reported their catalytic converter was stolen Sunday night, as well.

It's a job that can take up to as little as two minutes, according to local car experts.

"Nowadays they have multiple tools that make the job easier,” said Ceasar Alvarez, co-owner of P&L's Auto Repair in Lompoc.

You won't be able to tell your catalytic converter was stolen by simply looking at your car, but when you go to turn the engine on, it won't make a smooth sound.

Instead, according to mechanics, it will make a really loud roaring sound similar to what it would sound like if you didn't have a muffler, and to make matters worse, replacing it can be a big hit to your wallet.

Mechanics say catalytic converters are targeted because they contain metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

"They're quite precious, sometimes even more precious than gold and they're not in really big quantities but they are in every catalytic converter," said Mark Cawkwell, owner of Automotive Service Center in Lompoc.

That precious piece in your car can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 to replace.

Mechanics say thieves can get anywhere between $150 to $600 for one depending on the type of car.

Experts say there are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you:

1. Park your car inside your garage
2. Park in well-lit areas
3. Purchase a vehicle security system
4. Visit a local muffler shop to weld extra pieces of metal to the catalytic converter

"There are other things that you guys can be doing out there, you know, like trying to find a job. I mean, I know it's hard out there because of this pandemic but they're looking for the easy money, easy life,” Alvarez said.

Lompoc police are asking anyone who might have information about these recent thefts to contact their office at (805) 736-2341.