The problem with stealing a car’s catalytic converter — at least from the thief’s perspective — is that they’re trapped under the car when they’re removing the emissions-control devices.
That was a problem for two alleged, would-be thieves in Turlock, California; a fed-up family that endured six prior theft attempts created a trap on Oct. 4, resulting in the burglars running off — and one heck of a viral video.
According to Sacramento’s KXTV, the family chased the two men off using paintball guns as they tried to get the catalytic converter from under their SUV in broad daylight.
“The brazen attempt happened Oct. 4 just before 12:30 p.m.,” the station reported, “Turlock Police spokesperson Sgt. Mike Parmley said two men were trying to take the catalytic converter from the family’s 2000 Ford Excursion.”
They failed, and in beautiful fashion:
Catalytic converter thieves in California get blasted by paintball guns when the owner comes out and confronts them. pic.twitter.com/og1NpgT4Zd
— STREET PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES (@streetpeopleLA) October 8, 2022
The two would-be thieves heard the shots from the paintball guns and quickly worked to remove themselves from the trap, shimmying out from under the SUV and getting into a red getaway car parked in front of the home.
“A frustrated resident of the home is captured on home surveillance shooting the two male suspects, multiple times, with a paint ball gun,” Parmley told reporters.
The video shows the two men sawing into the device to try to loose it, only temporarily startled by the car alarm. The family, however, noticed it — as well they should. Parmley said this was the seventh attempted catalytic converter theft they’d suffered.
The family didn’t want to be identified by name or on camera. However, they said out of the seven thefts, three have caused damage to the car. This time, they added, the thieves came closest to getting the entire converter off.
Sgt. Parmley, however, discouraged people from scaring catalytic converter thieves off.
“Despite having the right to defend your own property, these types of actions could be very unsafe. Upon confronting individuals committing crimes, their actions are often unpredictable and could lead to intervening citizens becoming victims of an assault or more serious crime,” he said.
Unfortunately, it’s not like police have been very successful in stopping theft of the devices; thefts of catalytic converters have soared nationally, and California has been hit particularly bad.
“Catalytic converter theft has spiked across the country in recent years, from 1,298 reported thefts in 2018 to 52,206 in 2021, according to claims data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The bureau sampled member company claims data to identify catalytic converter theft trends, and a spokesperson wrote in a statement that the numbers don’t represent all thefts,” California-based non-profit news outlet CalMatters noted in a Monday report.
“Nationally, 37 percent of catalytic converter theft claims tracked by the bureau in 2021 were in the Golden State — a disproportionate share, even accounting for California’s large population,” the report continued. “About 1,600 are stolen per month in California, per a 2021 presentation from the state’s Bureau of Automotive Repair.”
Hybrids are popular targets because they have two catalytic converters; older Toyota Priuses are a particular favorite, but Hondas and Toyotas in general tend to be targeted by thieves.
The devices can be sold for $50 to $250 a pop.
California has signed three bills into law aimed at addressing catalytic converter theft: One which makes theft of vehicle parts a priority for the California Highway Patrol’s Regional Property Crimes Task Force, one which limits who can legally sell a catalytic converter to certain businesses and owners who can prove it came from their vehicle and one which requires individuals and businesses that buy catalytic converters to record the particulars, including the VIN number, of the car it came from.
Whether these laws will deter thieves remains to be seen. I can tell you one thing that will: painful paintball welts.
These two apparent would-be thieves not only have those to show for their experience trying to plunder a catalytic converter in broad daylight. They also have the knowledge that, under a different set of circumstances, the ending to this could have been significantly more dire.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.