ANAHEIM, Calif. (CBSLA) — One person died Wednesday after being crushed during an apparent catalytic converter theft in Southern California.
According to Anaheim police, the body of a man was found underneath a Toyota Prius at an auto repair lot on Placentia Avenue at about 6 a.m. Police said it appeared that the man was attempting to steal the car’s catalytic converter overnight.
“The jack that he used to lift up the vehicle failed and the car came down on top of him, unfortunately crushing him and causing his death,” Sgt. Shane Carringer, of the Anaheim Police Department, said.
Police said they recovered tools at the scene that were left under the vehicle belonging to Wilmar Rodriguez’s building company. “It’s just unfortunate that that situation had to happen,” Rodriguez said.
Several business owners said this was not the first time thieves have targeted their catalytic converters, a costly critical emissions-control device that can be sawed off from a car in minutes and contains precious metals.
“In recent weeks we’ve had a rash of catalytic converters stolen out of the complex here,” Sean Harp, a business owner, said. Harp was one of the first owners to discover the man’s body and call police. “What I found peculiar was that his shoes were off, and it led to believe someone was there assisting him and tried to pull him out maybe,” he said.
According to police, thieves target Prius’ because the converters fetch a higher price since their gas engines are not used as much — meaning more of the precious metals are still there. “It’s a crime that we’ve seen in Southern California occurring for quite a while, but right now it does seem to be reaching somewhat more of a fevered pitch,” Carringer said.
Just last Friday, police found a catalytic converter and power saw inside of a truck after the speeding driver crashed into a Garden Grove pool — killing the two parolees inside along with an innocent driver. And on Tuesday, detectives with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department seized roughly 400 suspected stolen catalytic converters from an alleged catalytic converter fencing operation.
The parts are shipped overseas to placed like China where the price has quadrupled in the past five years due to demand in response to stricter emission restrictions.
The uptick in the crime has led some drivers to getting their catalytic converters etched with their license plate numbers to deter theft.
Meanwhile, back in Anaheim, police said they were still looking for any suspected accomplices and business owners said they planned to add security cameras to their shops.