As Lauren Keene of the Davis Enterprise reports, the Davis police department has received “45 reports of catalytic converter thefts in recent months, nine in the past week alone.” Of those thefts, 38 were from Toyota Priuses. The converter of the Prius, Keene explains, “contains precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, making it a popular target in the Sacramento region and beyond for thieves looking to make a quick buck.”
In April, Michael McGough of the Sacramento Bee noted “a spike in catalytic converter thefts in the South Natomas area since the start of 2019,” with 18 of the thefts targeting the Toyota Prius. Similar reports chart catalytic converter theft in the Santa Barbara region and Los Angeles County.
Victims across the state have cause to wonder if the spike catalytic converter thefts can be traced to Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative. Under this 2014 measure, stolen property worth $950 or less is reduced from a potential felony to a misdemeanor.
According to The Impact of Proposition 47 on Crime and Recidivism, a June 2018 study from the Public Policy Institute of California, “Prop 47 may have contributed to a rise in larceny thefts, especially thefts from motor vehicles.” Starting in December, 2014, such thefts jumped from 16,000-17000 to 19,000-20,000. The increase of 35,300 thefts from motor vehicles accounts for “almost two-thirds of the 54,700 increase in the number of property crimes in California.”
In a June, 2018, report, Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that in San Francisco, “auto break-ins soared, by 24 percent last year to a total of 31,222.” Arrests for crimes such as auto break-ins were down because “state law prohibits officers from arresting people for misdemeanor crimes that an officer did not personally observe.”
Reports of arrests for catalytic converter theft are rare, and in Davis thieves targeted one couple three times in four months. Replacement of the converters can easily run more than $1,000.