Moorpark College on-campus Catalytic Converter theft leaves $2500 in repairs


Photo courtesy of the VCCCD Police Department.

By Rachel Franklin

Thieves left roughly $2500 in damages after stealing five catalytic converters from Moorpark College maintenance and operations (M&O) vehicles parked on the Moorpark College campus over President’s Day weekend last month.

According to a “Timely Notice” email sent from the Ventura County Community College District Police Department to the Moorpark College community, multiple red saw blades were located at the scene. The thieves likely entered the M&O vehicle parking lot through the northern fence line, which had been cut and was open.

Lieutenant Andy Huisenga of the Moorpark College Police Department described how one might benefit from stealing catalytic converters, emphasizing that these thefts are a national issue possibly spiking due to the lack of work available and rising rates of drug use during the pandemic.

“There are precious metals in a catalytic converter in a car, so they’ll cut this portion out from underneath your car,” said Huisenga. “They’ll cut it out, they’ll take it, they’ll go somewhere like the San Fernando Valley or into L.A. to a shop that buys metals. They’ll sell it, they’ll get quick cash and then they can purchase drugs. It’s not a crazy amount of money you’re getting for it; you’re not going to get rich stealing catalytic converters, but it’s enough money to get that next fix and just to keep going.”

Catalytic converters are extensions to cars’ exhaust pipes that reduce toxic gases and pollutants in the exhaust gas. They are made of three precious metals: Platinum, Rhodium and Palladium.

As described by reporter Clifford Atiyeh in his recent article with ‘Car and Driver’, the latter two metals listed are worth more per ounce than gold.

“We’re really isolated in our location. We’re not like on a main road like Ventura or Oxnard College are, so our thefts here are down,” said Huisenga. “But, nationwide, this has been going on for the year. They’ve really seen a spike, and now recently, within the past six months or so, a year, Ventura County as a whole has seen a huge spike in catalytic converters (thefts). I believe already this year, January to March, there’s already been 100 reports taken in our county for thefts of catalytic converters.”

In hopes of deterring future catalytic converter thefts, Moorpark College plans to take part in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and Moorpark Police Department’s new “Etch and Catch” program, according to Huisenga.

Moorpark Police have teamed with roughly ten local auto repair, body shops and oil change locations to etch community members’ license plates numbers and paint a Sheriff’s star on their catalytic converters, free of charge, according to a news release from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

“As soon as (potential thieves) see the painted Sheriff’s star and engraved license plate number, they will hopefully leave your car alone,” stated the news release. “If they are bold enough to still steal your catalytic converter, law enforcement or a scrap yard will be able to recognize the catalytic converter as stolen based on the markings.”

catalytic converter that has been marked through "etch and catch" program
Catalytic converter that has been marked through “etch and catch” program.

A full list of participating businesses, as well as a list of the top 10 vehicles targeted for catalytic converter thefts, can be found within the news release.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Malibu/Lost Hills Station has launched a similar initiative, teaming with Calabasas Car Care – Tire Pros for an appointment-based event yesterday, March 15.

“It can happen to anyone,” said Huisenga. “It used to be cars that were maybe up off the ground a little more, but the top car, I believe now in our county, is a Toyota Prius that is getting hit with catalytic converter (thefts).”

Community members can reduce the risk of catalytic converter theft by participating in the “Etch and Catch” program, and parking in well-lit, higher traffic areas, preferably near cameras.

Police currently have no suspects regarding the theft over President’s Day weekend, according to Huisenga.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation or other suspicious activity is urged to contact the Moorpark College Police in person at the Moorpark College campus, by phone at (805) 378-1455 or anonymously by calling (805) 652-7770.