Catalytic converter theft victims flock to get rebar cages

Chris Lutgen's Nissan Frontier made a horrendous loud noise after thieves stole his catalytic converter.

"Certainly lets them know you're coming," Lutgen quipped as a mechanic moved his pickup truck into the garage of MGR Mufflers & Auto Repair on San Pablo Avenue in Richmond.

He decided not only to get a new converter, but also a cage made of rebar for added protection.

"It's just unfortunate that there is an outlet for people to be able to steal these valuable catalytic converters with the heavy metals," Lutgen said.

In another auto bay, Liz Flores switched the ignition on a Honda CRV that also had its converter stolen.

"So it sounds like a semi truck," she said.

Flores and her husband Jose own the shop, where on any given day 10 cars come in for converter replacements. They say thieves will hopefully skip cars outfitted with a rebar cage 

"I highly recommend the rebar cage. It has been super effective, it's very difficult to cut through," she said.

Jose Flores said, "They know they're going to take more time, that's one. And two, they know they're going to make more noise."

You'll have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for a replacement converter plus $300 to $800 extra for a protective cage.

But should a thief remove the cage, which the couple says is fairly unlikely, then insurance should cover it.

Thieves are everywhere, but police are making a dent.

Stolen catalytic converters spilled out from the trunk of an Infiniti that police chased along the Peninsula at 3 a.m. Friday before it crashed on Highway 101 in San Francisco.

Cut-out devices also filled the backseat. A passenger was arrested, but the driver got away, according to South San Francisco police, recovering 14 stolen converters, a portable saw and a jack.

South San Francisco, San Bruno and Colma police and the CHP worked together in the second chase and crash involving catalytic converter thieves in a little more than a week.

Converter thieves could face potential prison time. Just the other day, a man got 32 months behind bars after a judge rejected his argument that this was a "victimless crime."

There could also be far more serious implications for thieves. Early Friday, a suspect believed to have been involved in a catalytic-converter theft was shot and killed by the car owner near Arkansas and Shasta in Vallejo.