There’s a new crime trend in the city of Los Angeles, and it’s on a sharp rise. That trend is the theft of  catalytic converters from beneath automobiles and the selling of those parts as scrap to recyclers.

Enterprising thieves have recently given new meaning to the term “carjacking.” They are searching around at night for cars, lifting them up on jacks, and cutting out the catalytic converter from beneath the chassis.

Catalytic converters are used by the car to help keep the engine quiet and to help control emissions. Thieves, though, are more interested in the precious metals often located within. Metals like platinum, gold, palladium and/or rhodium can be extracted from the parts by recyclers and can be valuable.

While the theft of catalytic converters in Southern California is nothing new, the recent trend has taken a rather disturbing turn. For one, in 2013 there were only 17 reported thefts of catalytic converters in Los Angeles. Now, just one month into 2014, there have already been 20 reported missing.

Second is the professional nature of the crime. According to reports, the cuts made to remove the parts are clean and professional. Apart from that, the theft often takes place during the night from cars parked right next to the owner’s home.

Law enforcement officials are urging residents to take a few precautions when parking their cars to reduce their risk of falling victim to these thieves.

  • Park in well-lit areas, in view of security cameras (where available)
  • Get an alarm for your vehicle
  • Sometimes, bolts on catalytic converters can be welded on. Find out from your mechanic if this is possible with your car’s model.

Lastly, the cars being targeted are those such as Toyota trucks, of which the catalytic converters are known to contain platinum. Apart from those, Acura’s and Honda Accords are sought by catalytic converter thieves as well.