17 catalytic converters missing

SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — More than $25,000 worth of catalytic converters were discovered missing Thursday from 17 pickup trucks at a Brand Boulevard auto dealership, the largest single theft of its kind in Glendale.

The thefts occurred on the fifth story of a parking structure that Allen Gwynn Chevrolet uses as a storage lot for some of its inventory, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

The vehicles were atop the structure for about two weeks, and the theft could have occurred at any time during that period, he said.

Allen Gwynn managers contacted police after an employee who was moving a 2008 Chevrolet Silverado from the storage lot to the dealership lot noticed that the pickup sounded unusually loud, according to a police report.

Employees found that its catalytic converter, a common part used to regulate auto emissions, was missing. They then found that 16 other trucks — 15 more Silverados and an Avalanche — were missing their catalytic converters.

Phone calls to Allen Gwynn managers were not returned.

The theft of catalytic converters is a growing epidemic in Southern California, according to law enforcement officials. In Burbank, police took 15 reports of converter thefts between November and December. In February, Glendale Police partnered with a Los Angeles County task force to prevent such thefts.

And while catalytic converter theft in Glendale is not as prevalent as in other cities in Los Angeles County — Glendale police take about six reports of converter thefts a month on average, Glendale Police Det. Mauricio Barba said. Patrol officers are on alert for converter thieves, he said.

Thieves can usually steal a converter between three and five minutes, using a ratchet to remove a few bolts, he said. Older-model trucks and sport utility vehicles, which are high off the ground, are the most common targets.

Thieves target catalytic converters, which can be accessed via vehicle undercarriages, to melt down and sell to scrap metal yards, where rising metal values can fetch high profits, Barba said.

Since the devices in the most recent thefts are brand-new, thieves may also be able to unload them at auto repair shops, Balian said.

Brand new catalytic converters can go for between $150 and $500 retail, he added.

Police are hoping that a surveillance video that monitors the entrance to the parking garage will help them identify suspects, he said. But the perpetrators may have entered the building through other means, such as jumping over a wall or breaking through an emergency exit, he said.

Security officers for the parking garage told police that they did not notice any suspicious activity at the garage recently, according to the police report.

A parking attendant guards the entrance to the parking structure between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and an automated gate secures the premises during off hours.

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