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BPD and Pep Boys in Bakersfield partner up to offer catalytic converter identification etching

Being able to trace each stolen catalytic converter to its rightful owner may discourage catalytic converter theft.
painted catalytic converter
Posted at 4:54 PM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 20:25:05-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Catalytic converter thefts are up across the country and around Kern County. Now, the Bakersfield Police Department is taking action to help prevent future thefts. BPD is partnering with Pep Boys to offer drivers a way to make their car’s catalytic converter a little less attractive to thieves.

Rachel Rivera, BPD Community Relations Specialist Rachel Rivera describes the process.

“On the catalytic converters, what we do, we spray paint it with a fun color heat-resistant spray paint, and then we engrave the driver’s license number,” said Rivera. “That way, it can be traced back to the owner of that vehicle and they can choose to press charges should somebody hop under their vehicle and chop off their catalytic converters.”

Carlos Zaragoza, Bakersfield Pep Boys Area Director, says he’s seen success with this method.

“If a thief gets underneath and see that it’s painted and it’s etched, they gonna go to the next guy,” said Zaragoza. “They just gonna bring the car down and go to the next guy. They not even gonna bother.”

When it comes to catalytic converter theft, it’s good to get passed by, but pretty common if you aren’t. BPD has received reports of over 1,505 converter thefts so far this year. One of those reports came from Michael Wilkes.

“Between 1 and 1:30, that someone parked on the street, walked up with a Sawzall, got under that truck, took it out, about 48, under a minute and walked away with it,” said Wilkes. “And I have them all on camera doing it.”

Wilkes says the thieves are getting brazen now, coming into neighborhoods and right up people’s driveways to steal their catalytic converters.

“He’d been scoping it out,” Wilkes says of whoever stole his catalytic converter. “This truck doesn’t get driven very often, so he knew this truck was sitting here, so they’re driving around and they’re watching neighborhoods and they’re seeing what vehicles move and what don’t move.”

Wilkes converter was stolen on October 30th, and he’s still driving around town, very carefully, to try and find an affordable replacement.

“It’s very frustrating because it’s money I have to take out of my pocket now, with the way the economy is now, it’s more money I have to spend to fix my vehicle,” said Wilkes. “There was nothing wrong with it in the first place.”

Bakersfield resident Andrea Golding brought her son’s car to the event to get his catalytic converter painted and etched so her family can avoid Wilkes’ fate.

“Several of my neighbors have similar cars and they’ve had their catalytic converter stolen,” said Golding. “This my son’s car and it’s parked in the driveway, so I just figured it would be a good thing to get it done and hopefully we won’t have any problems.”

Wilkes would also be interested in converter etching in the future, but he says it’s a solution that shouldn’t be necessary. He says people should look out for their neighbors and neighborhoods because they want to have a nice place to live.

Other things drivers can do to discourage thieves from targeting their catalytic converters include only parking in well-lit areas, parking your car in a closed garage, and regularly changing where you park your car at work or at home to avoid creating a predictable routine.

“We have to come up with these plans when it becomes a problem and it shouldn’t be this way,” said Wilkes. “We should treat each other with respect, and that’s someone’s personal property. Just leave it alone.”