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VIN Marking to Aid Prosecution for Catalytic Converter Theft

By Sonia Hiew

NORTHRIDGE, CA - Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in San Fernando Valley. It requires more than law enforcement and laws enacted to put a stop to the crime. A new solution is VIN etching.

Photo Credit: Sonia Hiew, catalytic converter that has its VIN number etched

Los Angeles Police Department hosted a free VIN marking event for the public in April. While it doesn’t necessarily prevent theft, Detective Jeff Lohmann said having the VIN etched on your catalytic converter helps prosecute the thieves.

“If you don't have an identified victim in a property crime it's near impossible to get a prosecution. There has to be a potential victim that says you know, high courts I didn't give permission for this person to take my catalytic converter,” said Detective Lohmann.

VIN marking also helps police return recovered catalytic converters to their owners.

However, Sako Arbajian who runs a muffler shop in Reseda, said the current laws raise questions about the point of it.

“California law says we cannot install a used catalytic converter so you know now we're falling into that gray area of the law. I mean are we supposed to put that catalytic converter back on the car?” said Arbaija.

Esteban Moreno, a resident of the San Fernando Valley who just retrieved his car from Arbajian’smuffler shop said it was the second time in a year that his catalytic converter got stolen.

“At this point, I don't know what I can do to kind of prevent it,” said Moreno.

Arbajian recommends installing a cat shield for those seeking a more immediate solution to deter thieves.

LA City Council voted in April to allow police to arrest anyone who has an unattached catalytic converter without papers to prove lawful ownership. If found guilty they can face up to $1000 in fine or 6 months of jail time.

Sonia Hiew video report

By Sonia Hiew

Contributions: LAPD Mission Division and West Valley Division, Reseda Muffler and Brakes, Esteban Moreno

Photo: Sonia Hiew

Video: Sonia Hiew


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