Catalytic Converter

When Bill Zagotta went to start his 2008 Toyota Prius in the morning, the normally quiet-as-a-mouse hybrid roared.

It sounded like a “jet engine” Zagotta said in an interview. The narrative of a police report of the theft notes “it sounded like a car with a blown muffler.”

The Livermore Police Department (LPD) and police across the state have noticed an increase in the theft of catalytic (cat) converters over the last year due to the high recycling value of the metals they contain.

Most of the thefts are believed to have taken place during the night and early morning hours in dark conditions. It takes a skilled thief a short amount of time — less than 5 minutes — to crawl under a car, saw or cut through the parts, and steal the catalytic converter.

Zagotta and a neighbor with a similar experience noted the thieves target a disproportionately high number of older Toyota Prius models, because the location of the cats makes them easier to extract.

Not only do the victims have to replace the catalytic converter, the method of removal also often results in additional costly repairs.

Fortunately for Zagotta, the $3,000 repair bill was covered by insurance. Even so, he shelled out an extra $400 to have an antitheft plate installed to prevent being victimized a second time. That was not covered by insurance.

The LPD recommends the following tips to help thwart catalytic converter thieves:

Park your vehicle in a closed, locked garage. If parking in your driveway, consider using or adding a motion-sensing light.

Install a quality video surveillance system outside of your home.

Meet regularly with neighbors, and coordinate with one another to safeguard your neighborhood and develop plans to look out for one another.

If you need help setting up a Neighborhood Watch, contact LPD’s Crime Prevention Unit at

If you see something suspicious (like a person working on the underside of a car in the middle of night along with the sound of a power saw or hammering), report it immediately.

Livermore Police Tip-Line at 925-371-4790. Those who wish to remain anonymous may do so.