Not even the police are safe from catalytic converter thefts in San Francisco.
According to the SFPD, emboldened criminals stripped the exhaust emission devices from four marked vehicles on September 12.
Police initially discovered the catalytic converter was missing from a marked truck near Potrero Hill. After checking other vehicles belonging to the department, police found that several were also targeted in the operation.
According to police, the thieves targeted vehicles parked outside the department’s Special Operations Bureau building at 17th and De Haro streets, which houses the department’s SWAT Team and Bomb Squad, as well as many of the department’s cruisers.
In total, two marked trucks and two vans belonging to the department had their catalytic converters removed.
No arrests were made, and an investigation is ongoing, police say.
“The people engaging in this activity really don’t think much of the police if they think they can steal catalytic converters from the best of us,” an SFPD official told Mission Local.
Anonymous officers in the department were not optimistic that the thieves would be arrested.
Previously, the SFPD let a man go after they caught him sawing off a catalytic converter — they even gave him his tools back.
“They’ll get away with it, too,” a veteran SFPD officer said. “And this is not the first incident.”
In the early-morning hours before on the same day, it was reported that an SFPD officer was run over while attempting to stop a catalytic converter theft.
To combat the rise of catalytic converter thefts, bay area police are going after the illegal distributors of the parts.
Fremont police recently announced the success of their operation after undercover police busted a local recycling center for purchasing stolen converters.
Police obtained 300 stolen converters during the bust, along with multiple 55-gallon drums containing refined material from the parts.
Since the pandemic began, the metals that make up the car devices have become more valuable, attracting thieves and encouraging a black market for scrap dealers.
Recyclers pay up to $250 per converter.
California has been hit hard by the illegal trend. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Office recorded a 400% increase in catalytic converter thefts from 2019 to 2020 — right around the outbreak of the pandemic.
According to the AAA, catalytic converter replacements have also spiked by more than 90% during 2020.
A Been Verified study also found that 26,000 converters were stolen in the first half of 2021, nearly double the amount from the previous year.