Catalytic converters include precious metals, which is why they are a target for thiefs

The Berkeley Police Department has noticed a pattern a thefts of catalytic converters in the North Berkeley Hills.

Since the beginning of October, there have been six reported thefts of catalytic  converters during the overnight hours. Thieves appear to be targeting Toyota pickup trucks and vans specifically.

A catalytic converter is part of a car’s exhaust system that converts toxic emissions to less toxic substances. Parts of the converters are made of precious metals,  including platinum, palladium and rhodium, and, just as the theft of brass and copper have been on the rise recently, so have catalytic converter thefts. According to BDP Officer Byron White, Operations Division Coordinator for Area 1, who sent out a community alert on Thursday Oct. 17, a thief can expect to get around $200 for a converter.

Streets where catalytic converters have been stolen in the recent spate of thefts include Boynton and Cragmont avenues, Creston Road and Campus Drive, according to a Crime Stoppers map shared by Officer White.

According to, a suspect can steal a catalytic converter in under two minutes. The usual way to remove it is to use a reciprocating saw (which makes a buzzing sound) lying underneath the vehicle to cut the converter from the tail pipe. SUVs and trucks, especially late-model Toyotas, are the most commonly hit vehicles because they sit higher off the ground.

Berkeleyside last reported on a catalytic converter theft trend in June of last year. At that time, reader Rachel Anderson reported having to pay $801 to replace the catalytic converter that had been unbolted from her 1998 Toyota Tacoma truck.

The recent theft of another precious metal, copper, from UC Berkeley property, triggered a power outage that was followed by an explosion and a complete campus evacuation.

If you have any information about the catalytic converter thefts, contact the Berkeley Police Departments Property Crimes Unit at (510) 981-5737 or provide information anonymously to Bay Area Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

Cal is back after outage, explosion; investigations ongoing (10.02.13)
Catalytic converter thefts on the rise in Berkeley, nationwide (06.20.12) 

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...