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Felon Arrested for Attempting to Steal Catalytic Converter
 

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Lookout Staff

August 12, 2021 -- A Los Angeles felon on probation was arrested by Santa Monica police early Thursday morning after he was caught attempting to steal a catalytic converter from a truck parked in a secured lot.

The arrest took place at around 5:30 a.m. when officers responding to a burglary in progress at Rainbow Carpet Cleaners, 1833 Lincoln Boulevard, heard "a grinding noise coming from under a white ford pickup truck," police said.
Suspect Alexander Torres

The officers found a male subject, later identified as Alexander Torres, a 28-year-old from Los Angeles, "holding a flashlight," said Lt. Rudy Flores, the Police Department spokesman.

"Torres made eye contact with a police officer and attempted to flee, however was immediately taken into custody without incident," Flores said.

The officers confirmed Torres was attempting to steal the catalytic converter and recovered "a reciprocating saw, metal blades and the flashlight Torres was holding."

Torres was booked at Santa Monica jail for grand theft, police said. Police learned Torres was on formal probation for assault with a deadly weapon.

The theft of catalytic converters accounted for a dramatic spike in auto parts theft in Santa Monica last year ("Crime Dips During COVID-19 Shutdown, Calls for Service Plummet," February 19, 2021).

Reported incidents of auto theft surged from 108 in 2019 to 402 last year, a 272 percent increase. Of those about 57 percent involved thefts of catalytic converters.

Saw used in attempted theft
Blades recovered from suspect
Saw and blades recovered by police (Courtesy SMPD)

Santa Monica police say the increase in the theft of catalytic converters -- which are attached to a vehicle's exhaust pipe to reduce the toxicity of emissions -- is reflected in neighboring Westside communities.

Catalytic converters are valuable to scrap metal dealers because they contain precious metals, including rhodium, platinum and palladium, police said.

The current price of platinum is $1,037.90 an ounce, palladium goes for $2,660 an ounce, while the price of rhodium is $17,050 an ounce. By comparison, gold is going for $1,753.53 an ounce.

Content in a catalytic converter varies widely depending on the vehicle model, but on average the amount of platinum is around 5 grams, according to ecotradegroup.com

Catalytic converters, which are also sold on the used parts market, also do not have unique serial numbers or identifiable markings, making it difficult for law enforcement officers to return the stolen converters to their owners.

Etching a converter with a license plate number can sometimes deter theft, police said.

Anyone with additional information about Thursday's incident or the suspect is encouraged to call the Criminal Investigations Division 310-458-8451 or Santa Monica Department Watch Commander (24 hours) at 310-458-8427.


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