WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Recognize these burglars? Plus – we (and others) join the list of catalytic-converter theft victims

12:10 PM: Two reports in West Seattle Crime Watch so far today:

RECOGNIZE THESE BURGLARS? The Southwest Precinct is circulating those images, asking for help identifying burglars who broke into the lobby at an apartment building in the 6500 block of California SW at 5:30 am last Saturday (February 20). Police say the burglars “left at 5:43 carrying several items from the storage units and pushing two bicycles.” If you have tips on who these are, you can contact the investigating detective at 206-256-6821 and refer to incident 21-043068.

And a first-person reader report:

CATALYTIC-CONVERTER THIEVES HIT 2 MORE ELEMENTS: Sometime early this morning, thieves took the catalytic converters from our 2004 Honda Element and that of a similar-vintage Element down our street in Upper Fauntleroy. It was sometime after we went off watch around 3 am; another neighbor reports hearing a “metal-grinding” noise around 4 am. So how do you know your catalytic converter has been stolen? As others have noted, trying to start a car without this piece of equipment generates an obnoxiously loud noise (noxious odor, too). As high-ticket as these items are reported to be (we haven’t taken it in yet so don’t have an estimate), SPD told us these thefts can be reported online, unless you have video or a witness. (It’s a clunky process – we’ve done it before for car prowls and a bike theft – so allot 10-15 minutes.) Our most-recent reader reports of catalytic-converter thefts/attempts: Last Sunday, an Element in Pigeon Point and Prius on Beach Drive; a few days before that, an Element southwest of The Junction.

ADDED 1:17 PM: Minutes after publishing that, while embarking on a neighborhood walk, we saw this in a curbside gutter about two blocks from HQ:

No way to know if it’s ours; only mark we could see without picking it up is “Made in USA” (Elements are, partly). Did find an interesting video while looking online for visuals. (UPDATE: Thanks to the commenters who note that our photo shows a muffler, not a catalytic converter.)

ADDED 2:16 PM: At least one more Element catalytic converter was stolen overnight – Tami emailed us to say thieves took the one from her 2005 Element parked in front of her house in Upper Morgan.

ADDED 7:14 PM: And we’ve heard from yet another recent theft victim, who called us to report that her Element’s catalytic converter was taken during the day Friday near California/Holly in Morgan Junction.

34 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Recognize these burglars? Plus - we (and others) join the list of catalytic-converter theft victims"

  • Mike February 27, 2021 (12:58 pm)

    Who’s buying these converters?  

    • My two cents February 27, 2021 (2:30 pm)

      Sold to metal recyclers for the platinum metal group content.

    • Jack J March 1, 2021 (9:44 am)

      Recycling centers usually check ID of those selling scrap metal.  SPD and other law enforcement agencies to  keep in contact with these companies.  I know since I have sold scrap before and have seen faxes posted where the businesses are making no bones about law enforcement agencies passing on details of metal thefts.

  • Sarah February 27, 2021 (1:25 pm)

    Several ads have been listed on Facebook in the region recently.

  • Mj February 27, 2021 (2:34 pm)

    Replacing a catalytic converters is not cheap, and I suspect many of the victims no longer carry comprehensive insurance thus taking an even bigger financial hit.  Yet the perps and shady recycle dealers are not being held responsible and being made to pay restitution.  Where is the equity and fairness in this?

    • WSB February 27, 2021 (2:38 pm)

      Why would you have any reason to make an assumption about insurance? Speaking personally as one of the latest victims, yes, we have insurance. With a deductible, of course, so we’re out at least that much, and we’ll find out soon enough what happens with what will be our first claim ever.

      • John February 27, 2021 (3:09 pm)

        Comprehensive insurance on older cars is often dropped as the value of the car reaches a certain point.  If that 2004 Prius is only worth $800, then most people might balk at paying several hundreds for comprehensive with an additional deductible.  At some point a car’s value becomes less than some of its parts, as the catalytic converter might cost more than the car is worth.It is always troubling to hear of catalytic converter thefts. 

    • AMD February 28, 2021 (8:46 am)

      What are dealers supposed to do?  Ask for the title to a Prius to prove the catalytic converter is theirs?  What if someone just got lucky in the junk yard (not common, but it happens)?  Should they just stop taking those at all, meaning everyone that wants to sell their own because it doesn’t work or the car is getting scrapped is just out of luck and now the recycler can’t make any money either?  What if the thieves dismantle the converters so they just look like scrap metal and you can’t even tell it’s a car part by the time it gets to the recycler?  Recyclers do refuse purchases when they have reason to believe the items are stolen (this is how the Arboretum gates were found), but there are limits.  They’re not detectives, they’re scrappers.  Spending tens of thousands of my tax dollars locking up metal scrappers because they unknowingly bought a stolen converter isn’t fair or equitable to me, so I’m pretty glad we don’t handle the issue that way.

  • Susan February 27, 2021 (3:06 pm)

    Maybe that is where we should be picketing… in front of the recycling companies to get them to stop buying them.  

    • Eddie February 28, 2021 (9:23 am)

      Everybody is quick to scream “check the recycling companies”, and when an item is stolen, “check the pawnshops”, etc.Nobody is specific about where these alleged recycling yards and pawnshops that buy stolen items are located.  In the case of recycling yards, I challenge anyone to point out where exactly they are alleging that stolen Cat Convertors are being fenced. Be specific.  I’m open to your insights, I just don’t see more than about 1 place on the penninsula that even possibly operates as a recycling center, buying materials from the public for cash. And I’m not going to point the finger at them without a shred of knowledge about their operations.And I say let the police conduct their investigations. Do you really believe they haven’t thought of checking potential buyers, and aren’t actively working to  shut down whatever criminal enterprise is behind the thefts?

      • flimflam February 28, 2021 (10:09 am)

        so what do you think the thieves are doing with the stolen converters, collecting them like baseball cards?

        • Kat February 28, 2021 (2:17 pm)

          In the video WSB linked to in this post, a mechanic in Sacramento says it’s seems like there’s a semi-organized group that is possibly collecting large quantities of them and shipping them out of the country to recycle for scrap in bulk. So…. Maybe that?

      • Amy February 28, 2021 (1:17 pm)

        I really think the police aren’t investigating the crimes. Property crime is a pretty low priority. I would be curious to hear from someone that has had a converter guard installed, are they truly successful in keeping the thieves away? 

      • 1994 February 28, 2021 (8:56 pm)

        Maybe they sell the ‘cats’ in California – could be a larger market there with no questions asked.

  • they February 27, 2021 (3:32 pm)

    Over ten years ago my company had rooftop equipment worth thousands destroyed for a couple of dollars worth of copper. The PD said not much we can do here its up to you to protect it. So here we are ten years later and it went from our businesses to our homes. These thieves must be geniuses to be still getting away with this. Maybe we should put them in charge of our city… oops I think they are.    

  • justme February 27, 2021 (4:15 pm)

    Yes, I recognize them. They’re your average losers.

    • Bill February 27, 2021 (7:23 pm)

      I went downtown and up to Capitol Hill and back today – 4 different buses — this uniform is very common on all the buses!

  • Patrick February 27, 2021 (4:16 pm)

    Or, perhaps picketing, better yet,  voting out the city/county prosecutors and political leaders who continue to run this once beautiful city down the drain, in the name of ideological politics, where nobody is considered responsible for their actions.  I would be willing to bet the people committing these crimes have been caught before and have a noted rap sheet of various offenses.    The wheels of justice keep going around, and around, and around, and around…….

    • CeeBee February 28, 2021 (8:05 am)

      Instead of people picketing, maybe the police should be stationed at the recycling centers taking pictures, names, info on those showing up with all these converters.

    • W SEA Res February 28, 2021 (12:53 pm)

      Couldn’t  agree more

  • Kat February 27, 2021 (4:39 pm)

    As an Element owner who hasn’t been hit yet, I’m going to affix a duct tape note on my catalytic converter that details what I will do to the thief’s mom if they steal it…. Hoping it will at least throw them off enough to move along.

  • Auntie February 27, 2021 (4:52 pm)

    Seems like it was Priuses and now Elements seem to be popular – do their converters have more of whatever it is that the thieves are after? Or are the converters on those cars just easier to get?

    • Sue February 27, 2021 (7:23 pm)

      I’ve heard that the Prius and other hybrids are often targeted because the electric motor means their catalytic converters are used less frequently to process pollutants, their metals less susceptible to corrosion, and as a result, more valuable. I suspect the Element is because it’s higher up from the ground and easier to slide under.

  • OneTimeCharley February 27, 2021 (5:15 pm)

    Perhaps you should contact the State Attorney General as most (if not all) of the companies which purchase the converters are not even in this state. I sold a used/clogged catalytic converter to one of them myself a few years back. My transaction was 100% legitimate, as I owned the converter I was selling for recycle, but the proceeds helped me offset some of the cost of the new replacement converter. The other advise I would offer is to rid the world of social media. Many natural barriers to bad behaviors no longer pose an encumbrance in our hyper connected world. This is merely one example I am sorry to say.

  • valvashon February 27, 2021 (6:48 pm)

    What you see in the picture is what is traditionally referred to as the “muffler” or “back box” with the catalytic converter being the “front box”.  “Mufflers” are much more cheaply assembled and are designed to be a replacement item as they often rust out (like this one has) from the condensation and water vapor inherent in the combustion process.  If you search for a picture of a catalytic converter, it’s built out of thicker metal and welded together better due to the high temperatures inside of it.  What is pictured simply fell off of a car and is worthless.

    • WSB February 27, 2021 (6:56 pm)

      Thank you – I was only able to spend a little time this afternoon looking for visuals so didn’t stumble onto that. My familiarity with car parts was limited to under the hood, years ago at that …

      • bolo February 27, 2021 (8:40 pm)

        Yes, +1 on that, it’s an old rusted out cheapie muffler (can see the rust holes in the middle of it) that fell off some car and got run over and swept to the gutter. Your cat converter is too valuable to have been left like that.

  • P Dub February 27, 2021 (9:04 pm)

    If you have an older Prius it is a matter of when you will be hit
    not if. If you see a Prius that sounds like a dune buggy just send some calm
    and strength their way. Yes, its just stuff, and 100% fixable, but no one needs
    even more drama right now. 

    I’ve been so careful all year parking my older Prius
    backwards in my driveway. On the 13th I chained up (thank you insistent
    neighbor) and drove to work in Normandy Park because I do taxes and this is
    refund season. I made the responsible decision and asked my boss with a truck
    to give me a ride home because we were both working Sunday too. And Saturday
    night, in the snowstorm, they finally got my converter. 

    https://getcatsecurity.com/ I
    called Toyota this summer and they recommended this guard which was $300 at the
    time (now $175). Toyota charges $300 to install. Hmmm $600 protection, $1000
    replacement, just be careful…. We all have bills to pay I went with be careful.

    Progressive recommends SODO autoworksto
    repair and says replacement cost is about $1350. My deductible is high so I
    knew this would be out of pocket. I went with the Muffler Shop in White Center
    instead (did not want to drive my fake dune buggy all the way south then back
    up to Seattle). The Muffler Shop charges $1000 to replace and $75 to install
    the guard. If you buy the guard, the box is about 36” x 30” so beware of porch
    pirates. The Muffler Shop also said that Honda Elements are the new hot car,
    they replaced 3 converters for them last week.

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  • MS February 28, 2021 (9:55 am)

    These look like two young ladies in action………

  • Jon do February 28, 2021 (11:28 am)

    You need info on the vehicle such as VIN and registered owner to sell a cat. Or you need a recycling license to sell without vehicle info. So if your car is not broken into and info obtained then they have a license to sell

  • East Coast Cynic February 28, 2021 (1:08 pm)

    Question – I’ve read that Honda Fit models have catalytic converters, but I haven’t read stories about those models being hit with cc theft.  Is it still advisable to get such a guard for the Honda Fit model?

    • bolo February 28, 2021 (1:44 pm)

      Going by previous cat converter local theft reporting (thanks WSB!) the Fit is not YET a popular model for theft.

    • Tyr1001 March 1, 2021 (10:00 am)

      All road legal vehicles have at least one catalytic converter. As BOLO mentioned, it doesn’t seem like Fit’s are being targeted yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually will, they seem easy enough to slide under

  • ProudPapa March 8, 2021 (8:24 pm)

    Found this ad on facebook – best prices in town if you are looking for a replacement (or possibly the one that was stolen from you). https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/269735908004551/?ref=browse_tab&referral_code=marketplace_top_picks

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