Silver Lake vehicle owners seek relief from catalytic converter thefts

Honda Element after thieves cut out catalytic converter | Photo courtesy James Stathas

By Amanda Schallert

SILVER LAKE —  It takes a little more than a minute to make the two cuts to  remove a catalytic converter and drive away with the critical car part filled with precious metals.

In Silver Lake and neighboring areas, some residents are being hit by catalytic converter thefts in the middle of the night. The thefts occur about once a week, according to police. Last month, five catalytic converters were stolen in a single night in the Silver Lake area, and two men were arrested in the act, according LAPD Detective John Hovhanessian with the Northeast Division. One of the suspects was sent to prison, and the other man is still waiting to be sentenced.

Silver Lake resident James Stathas said a catalytic converter was stolen from his Honda Element several weeks ago. He had parked the car on the street overnight, and when he turned it on in the morning, it sounded like a jet engine.

For some residents, the total cost of repairs for the thefts varies from about $1,200 to $1,600. Stathas said he plans to replace the part using his insurance.

“But if I replace it tomorrow and put (my car) back on the street, there’s no guarantee they won’t steal it again,” he said. “If I can’t park my car in the garage, I’m just a sitting duck like everyone else here is.”

Because the theft is a recurring crime, some residents, including Stathas, plan to purchase catalytic converter protectors – or “cat clamps” – online or have makeshift contraptions built for them in shops. The protectors  act like a metal cage around the catalytic converters to discourage others from trying to steal them.

LAPD Detective John Hovhanessian recommended that residents park their cars in garages or in well-lit areas, have alarms on their cars and buy contraptions to protect their catalytic converters.

Amanda Schallert is a fourth-year UCLA student and the news editor at the Daily Bruin.

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  1. To the thieves: You’re total scum. Hope you rot in prison.

  2. “LAPD Detective John Hovhanessian recommended that residents park their cars in garages or in well-lit areas, have alarms on their cars and buy contraptions to protect their catalytic converters.”

    Is a firearm a contraption to protect a catalytic converter? I
    Is a silent alarm alerting the vehicle, bicycle, property owner of a theft in progress enabling the owner to catch and/or shoot the thief permitted?

  3. Eastside Architect

    After having mine stolen twice, I can honestly tell you that the final charge was more like double what they quote above! But thank goodness for insurance!.
    Also, a car alarm isn’t going to do anything. That’s why the thieves target these things, because it doesn’t trip the alarms as no window are broken or doors opened. I wish insurance would pay the $150 to install cat-clamps. It would save us all headaches & cash.
    How about LAPD do some more extensive patrolling of Silver Lake? I’ve seen an increase, which is great. But clearly, Silver Lake is still being targeted. Plus, with all the stairs, the thieves quickly hide and get away and I have yet to see an officer get out of their patrol car to actually check up/down the stairs.
    We don’t all have garages, and the streets aren’t all well lit, and the police won’t always patrol. It’s a crap-shoot. I just recommend getting the cat-clamps.

    • Unfortunately only Silver Lake gets extensive patrolling resulting in some arrests. because Silver Lake, home of politicos, entertainmentos, garmentos, and professional activists, is the squeaky wheel that gets lubricated. The rest of the area gets practically zilch.

    • Since many insurance deductible are around $500 (or even higher) it’s probably worth it to spend $150 on “cat-clamps” as a preventive measure.

  4. Don’t blame the public staircases for this crime – these criminals are arriving in a vehicle & leaving in a vehicle – you can’t get away fast on foot. I just saw a report of video on suspects arriving/leaving in a dark green SUV in Elysian Valley.

  5. Someone cut my CC last month but didn’t make off with it. Nonetheless, had to get my truck fixed. I’m on Sunset and Benton. Jerks!

  6. Where is the picture of the dirtbags who were caught and arrested?

  7. this has happened to me twice in echo park (once on portia street and once on galveston) in the last 6 weeks. the LAPD has not been helpful. the insurance deductible for me is $250, which is not an amount I’m particularly thrilled about paying every 6 weeks to simply park a car in echo park. car alarms don’t work. the contraptions they sell on the internet, i have been told repeatedly by various mechanics, my insurance and auto body shops, don’t work. the 2nd time it was stolen, it was parked in a “well lit area.” i do not have access to a garage.

    getting the community aware that this is happening is the first step, but we need support from the local police to nail this down.

  8. I have seen some stupid comments on The Eastsider, but blaming the public stairs for helping the CC thieves has to be the stupidest comment. Yeah, these criminals are going to carry the heavy metal CC up the stairs. Brilliant idea. Who is this guy? Barney Fife??

    • Never fear Barney Fife is here to catch these criminals stealing the catalytic converters.

      I solved the great supermarket robbery case back in Raleigh and I caught the bookie barber back in Mayberry, so I have experience!

  9. I had mine stolen a year ago in Highland Park. $2500 to fix it. The thieves did it in broad daylight. My neighbors noticed guys ‘working’ on my car. I don’t have a proper garage, so that’s not an option. I went to the NE Station to report it, and when I said I wasn’t sure if I would be filing an insurance claim, the officer put his pen down and said, then why are you here. As if the only reason to report it was to file my insurance! I told them that my neighbors saw the guys, and could possibly provide descriptions, and all they said was, okay. I get that there are serious things going on beyond my CC, but at least pretend to care!

    As for the comment about the stairs, I live on stairs and this was in no way impacted by that, but it is true that the stairs are not patrolled nearly enough. We have a 24/7 party going on our stair case, with recently some individuals bringing younger kids up with them. We’ve called for years and it’s just not a priority. Every time I see a cop car drive down my street I hope that they will actually just look up the staircase, and it rarely happens. A few ‘in the know’ officers will stop and flash their lights, but if it’s regular beat officers, they don’t even realize the stairs are there. Would be great to have all officers that patrol the area, familiar with the area.

  10. It’s so funny how much crap people store in their garages that they never use and the one thing that is super important to them and which the garage itself was constructed, the motor car, gets left on the street. Invert the equation and clear the crap out of your garages, sell or throw away all that crap, and we’ll be done with this “crisis”.

    • This is an awful trend.

      I’ve put in a motion detector light and security camera with night vision facing the street in front of my house. It’s not much security but it at least increases the odds that someone will break into the cars that are not in the cameras field of vision. I am hoping that if we can get enough lights and cameras on our block, the crooks would move onto blocks that are easier pickings

    • I’m willing to bet that many of the garages in Echo Park and parts of Silver Lake – at least, those that aren’t being used as garages – have been converted to living space or even small rental units.

  11. Mine was stolen about 3 weeks ago near silver lake blvd in front of my house. I hope someone shoots these crooks.

  12. It’s not just our hood. It’s Weho as well. I know many cars that have had the CC stolen from over there. The police are very award of how rampant the problem is.

  13. Tony the Main Spoon

    I live on Scott St. in EP and my Element was robbed of the CC as well. Every morning I cross my fingers the car wont sound off without out it. Ill definitely be looking into the clamp braces online. Cost me $2,000 to replace. My the thieves get what they deserve.

    I am wondering if there can be a law put in place where the Converter cant be exchanged due to the pervasiveness of the thefts. Where do these parts go? I feel like they are bought at other auto shops and used again for a price. BTW its happening in Eagle Rock as well. My buddies CC was ripped off in broad day light at his job. This makes me cringe!

  14. Yep. I had mine stolen in June — of my Honda Element parked in Angelino Heights (on Douglas, between Carroll and Calumet) . I replaced it and had a Cat clamp installed so it won’t happen again. If people hear loud sawing noises at night call the police!

  15. Cost me $2200 with cost of cat clamp to fix.

  16. Maybe consumers need to start demanding some sort of Kimberley Process for catalytic converters and for other high-value, easily-stolen car parts, so that each catalytic converter comes with a certification that traces its origin and certifies that it was not stolen. I realize that’s not a perfect solution, and that some people will continue to buy stolen car parts if they’re cheaper, but it could cut down on the demand for such parts. I’m willing to bet that some folks who had their catalytic converters cut out have inadvertently bought a stolen one to replace theirs.

    Also, we need to begin reporting shady auto shops – such as the place on Virgil, just south of Normal St., that offered to either replace my catalytic converter on my Toyota (I couldn’t pass the smog test without it) – or, for an extra fee, simply pass my car without fixing it. I ended up buying a catalytic converter from the dealer (they didn’t make aftermarket CVs for my car) and having it installed elsewhere. (This happened to me in 2006 or 2007, and I didn’t report them, but in retrospect, I should have.)


  17. They took mine for the 2nd time in 2 weeks around 3am last night. Very quiet saw, by the time I ran outside they were gone, in a white Toyota. Doubt insurance will pay for it again. Very brightly lit right outside my place on Larga in Atwater. Out of ideas.

  18. Does anyone know any auto shops in the area that will build a makeshift cage for you?

  19. If you install an alarm that alerts you silently, you can catch thieves in the act.

  20. Anyone notice in these comments that Honda Elements show up as a frequent target? My buddy had the cc stolen from his (you guessed it) Element last night in Los Feliz.

  21. My Element got hit twice within three months in Mid City. Paid $1000 in deductibles. Actual cost to insurance is about $2400 each time if done at the Honda dealer. Seriously considering selling my beloved E, having a clamp installed, or move to an apartment with a garage.

    Other options:
    – Feed a ninja cat under the car for over night protection.
    – Start a beehive on the cat converter.

  22. This isn’t just happening in Silverlake. My Honda element has been hit twice in the past 6 months in North Hollywood. I usually park in my carpark off the street but I have had to start parking on the street since it is much more public. I just found out about Catclamp and I’m going to install one this week and see if it helps.

  23. Mine was stolen from my Element in Silverlake near Trader Joe’s. My nearest muffler shop gave me an estimate of $1800. This also happened the one week i didn’t have insurance in my entire life, because I was switching to Esurance. Basically I’ve been out of a car for over a month, I don’t have that kind of money laying around. I really hope these bastards get caught, or even murdered. Preferably a slow painful death too.

    Also what is the cheapest estimate you guys have gotten, and where?

  24. Smog Check Recently?

    Just curious if anyone had a smog check recently? I got one in North Hollywood and the guy made a comment about how rare it is to see the original CC on my Toyota. Then he said, “you must park in a garage”. I’m thinking if my @#@! goes missing in the next few weeks, the guy did it because he has my address and he knows my Toyota has the original CC. My Nancy Drew notebook and pen are taking notes!

  25. my honda element cv was stolen last night at hoover and sanborn ave.
    i’ve parked it on the street for 2 months. it was in front of my apartment, ready to get out of this neighborhood. looking for an apartment with a garage.

  26. Old article but I’m here to share anyway. My Honda Element got it’s catalytic stolen in EP near Clinton St. and Alvarado back November of 2014. I got an old, aftermarket one replaced on for $300 that same day by a mechanic in EP that these thieves are not interested in stealing bc it has no value to them. However I was just told by my Honda dealer that my car won’t pass smog! Looking into other options because i’m not paying $2k to get a Honda catalytic installed for it to just be stolen again. Rot in hell thieves…

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