Thieves nabbed three catalytic converters in Lakewood within hours in early March, authorities said.
The robberies took place in the early morning hours of March 5 in the southern city of Los Angeles County, according to a social media post by the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s Lakewood Station.
“This series of incidents is very concerning and is something the Town of Lakewood and our partners at the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station are intensely focused on,” said town spokesman Bill Grady. The city “is 100% committed to bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice”.
Investigators told KABC-TV Channel 7 that the robberies all took place near the 4500 block of Lomina Avenue.
Every car is fitted with a catalytic converter, which is made with precious metals that reduce toxic emissions from the vehicle, producing less harmful exhaust gases such as carbon dioxide. During the COVID-19 pandemic, device theft has skyrocketed.
According to a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, the only information available about the Lakewood incident is a video posted on YouTube purporting to depict one of the devices being stolen by several people wielding baseball bats.
The video posted Monday by user Brian Maquena, who publishes a local news bulletin, is believed to be Ring security camera footage recorded March 5 at a house near Bellflower and Del Amo boulevards.
In the video, a white sedan and a dark gray sedan pull up in the driveway where what appears to be a light gray sedan is parked. Two people get out of the white car, one hiding under the light gray sedan with a flashlight. Then several people lift the car.
As the light gray sedan is lifted, someone yells at the thieves to leave.
One of the thieves then uses a bat to smash the gray sedan’s rear brake lights, and an alarm goes off.
The thieves shout swear words at the passerby before fleeing.
“The only information available is what is seen on the video, no other information is provided at this time,” the sheriff’s department said in an email.
Lt. Francisco Maldonado said the Lakewood station would not provide details and referred all comments to the sheriff’s department information office.
Grady, the city spokesperson, said Lakewood “is generally a quiet, safe residential community with a low crime rate.”
Last year, the city saw a reduction in overall property crime, he said.
A few days after the reported thefts, on March 8, Lakewood Mayor Jeff Wood said he and several colleagues traveled to Sacramento, where they participated in a press conference “to support legislation to combat the epidemic of catalytic converter thefts”.
Wood said they are monitoring several pieces of legislation related to thefts.
Thieves can make hundreds of dollars selling catalytic converters to auto parts suppliers or auto junkyards, The Times reported last year.
Devices can be smelted and precious metals, such as palladium and rhodium, extracted. Due to global demand for critical emission control devices, an ounce of precious metals can be worth thousands of dollars.
In Los Angeles County, the Sheriff’s Department reported a 400% increase in catalytic converter thefts from 2019 to 2020. Across California, catalytic converter replacements increased more than 90% in 2020, said Doug Shupe, spokesman for the American Automobile Assn.
Los Angeles Times