District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio is launching a free program to etch vehicle ID numbers and paint SFPD logos on catalytic converters, hoping to deter thieves with an idea that may be just crazy enough to work.
It’s no secret that catalytic converter theft has become the crime du jour among thieves, as vehicles’ catalytic converters are being stolen like French bulldogs thanks to the high resale value of the chemical elements like platinum, palladium and rhodium inside them. SF car owners have been frustrated by a few brazen, high-profile incidents where the thieves have fired guns at police, or SFPD caught a thief in the act under a car and just let him walk away, or sometimes even learning that automobile repair shops are secretly in on the game of reselling the stolen parts.
Make your catalytic converter harder for thieves to sell and easier for police to track: Etch your vehicle ID and paint it with the SFPD logo.— Joel Engardio (@JoelEngardio) May 23, 2023
I’m launching a free program in the Sunset, where converters are stolen most in San Francisco.
Sign up: https://t.co/7wTJdEttGG 1/5 pic.twitter.com/IylmptadJ4
District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio notes in the above tweet that the Sunset District, which he represents, is where “converters are stolen most in San Francisco.” So in hopes of taking a bite out of catalytic converter crime game, the Chronicle reports Engardio is launching a program to etch vehicle ID Numbers and paint SFPD logos on the sought-after auto parts.
“I’m partnering with police and auto shops in the Sunset to etch and spray paint your converter for free — making it harder for thieves to sell and easier for police to track,” Engardio said in a subsequent tweet to the thread above.
Mechanics will do this work at a one-day event on Friday June 2 at Sunset Auto Care (3865 Irving Street, at 40th Avenue) from 10:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. While that’s in the Sunset District, the Chronicle adds that “All residents of the city will be eligible to participate.”
There’s an online Catalytic Converter Etch Program signup form (also in Chinese), and registration is required for an appointment. Engardio says he has “the hope to roll it out to more residents in the near future” on additional dates at different repair shops.
In February, I sponsored Senate Bill 986, which seeks to curb catalytic converter thefts by prohibiting auto dealers from selling vehicles without its ID (VIN) number engraved onto the unit. I am pleased to share SB986 passed out of committee yesterday. https://t.co/seBKA3Jlqh— George Gascón (@GeorgeGascon) April 5, 2022
But will this actually work to deter thefts? Engardio is not the only official who’s encouraged the etching of ID numbers onto catalytic converters. Former SF and now LA district attorney George Gascón has been supporting a bill to require these vehicle ID numbers to bring some accountability to the sale and trade of catalytic converters, and Los Angeles has held similar events to get drivers’ converters etched.
So there is some credibility to etching ID numbers as a deterrent to catalytic converters theft. Whereas the spray-painting of an SFPD logo onto the parts, well, that is a new and untested method.
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Image: New exhaust system with catalytic converter (Getty Images)