A Catalytic Conversion

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California is a hot spot for curbside theft of catalytic converters – the main component of a vehicle’s emissions control system. It’s big business. The platinum and palladium within each cat are well worth the less than five minutes of effort it takes for a guy with a Sawzall to crawl underneath your car and crawl back out with yours in his paws, off to a recycler who’ll pay him (no questions asked) the roughly $80-$100 in scrap value for each one.

It beats minimum wage. 

Especially given it’s not a crime. Well, not in the sense of their being any meaningful legal repercussions for getting caught crawling under people’s cars with a Sawzall and making off with their cats. Because in California, the theft of property valued at less than $950 is treated as a misdemeanor – like jaywalking – and not worth the trouble to investigate much less prosecute.

This is interesting, given the trouble the owner of a vehicle sans cats faces from the very same government that mandates them – and which can’t be troubled to do much (if anything) about those who steal them.

It’s very illegal in CA to drive a car shorn of its cats – even if you didn’t do the shearing. And California isn’t insouciant about enforcing that.

Regardless of the cost.

There is no monetary threshold above or below which the state will turn a blind eye, here. Because the cost of obedience is limitless.

But only non-criminals are made to pay it.

The hapless victim of a cat-snatch who can’t afford to have a replacement cat installed – a couple hundred bucks on the low end, if he is lucky enough to own an older model car that only has one converter – and let’s say he puts a cheap section of pipe in place, even if just temporarily, in order to be able to keep on driving – runs the risk of being identified as cat-less by roadside emissions sniffers, which can tell when a cat-less car passes by.

A camera screenshots the offending car’s license plate and the owner is sent a letter requiring him to bring the car in for what is styled “smog check.” Which the car must pass – regardless of cost – in order for it to be anointed as legally usable.

The cat-less car’s owner must either pay to have a new cat (and peripherals, such as oxygen sensors, which often get snatched along with the cat) installed in order to be allowed to continue using his vehicle or run the risk of being caught using it illegally, sans renewed registration and up-to-date “smog” certification.

If he flouts that law – and gets caught – the consequences are considerably more serious than those faced by the thief who stole the cat in the first place. Especially because the likelihood of the cat-theft-victim being caught is much greater.

In this case, the state is vigilant, constantly looking for such scofflaws via a network of cameras and ALPRs (automated license plate readers).

A dead registration is cause enough for being pulled over by an armed government worker – probably one who couldn’t be bothered to deal with your call about the guy you watched  crawl under your car with a Sawzall, who made off with the cats the state now says you’re obliged to pay to have replaced – whatever it costs.

You may be reluctant to pay that cost given the not-small probability that a new/replacement cat is likely to be stolen by another guy with a Sawzall.

There is no limit to how many times this could happen and it is likely to happen again precisely because there is little to dissuade a guy with a Sawzall from crawling under your car, again.

If you drive more than six months without the state’s approval sticker, your car is subject to seizure – styled “impoundment.” The cost to get it out of the impound lot could easily exceed the $950 no-worries threshold for the guy who made off with your vehicle’s cats in the first place.

The usual explanation-justification for this is that it is a great environmental crime to drive a cat-less car because of all the emissions being belched into the air. It simply cannot be tolerated. But if so, why is the state so indifferent to the Sawzall guys who are responsible for all of this emitting? Why are they effectively exempted from any meaningful consequences for committing exactly the same of “environmental crime” that – if preformed by an exhaust shop – would trigger a body-armored/AR-toting Hut! Hut! Hut! from the same not-so-good-offices of government?

The same government that has made catalytic converter theft such an enticing prospect by making it such a low-risk project? No questions-asked at the recycling center; no CARB ID needed to cash in that “spare” catalytic converter . . .  or even a couple dozen of them.

Perhaps because it’s less about controlling “emissions” – and more about controlling something else?

Many years ago, I got to know Sam Francis, who was a columnist for The Washington Times. I was an editorial writer at the same paper. Sam talked about his concept of “anarcho-tyranny,” by which he meant deliberately encouraged lawlessness by the state for the sake of its power, which it increased by selectively tyrannizing those it regarded as a threat to its power.

The object being to demoralize the latter – by using the chaos created by the former.

On the upside – once one realizes the nature of this game – one tends to no longer feel obliged to play by the “rules” of this game.

What was it Mencken said about every normal man sometimes feeling the urge to spit on his hands and hoist the black flag?

Perhaps to the sweet song of an exhaust sans cat…

. . .

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73 COMMENTS

  1. Cat theft is rampant in Chicago too especially the nicer neighborhoods along the lake Lincoln Park, Bucktown, Lakeview etc. I love it personally. Enjoy what you voted for you liberal fucks

  2. Thank the Heavens…liberalism works every time. I wonder if auto insurance would cover any of this? Maybe they will add a “cat theft” rider for a few hundred bucks a year.

    Maybe they will invent a “cat alarm”, for a steep price of course. Might deter a few thieves.

    Another reason to go all electric? Not. Replacing stolen cats a whole lot cheaper than replacing a giant car battery.

    Usually what starts in Commie Cally sweeps across the nation like there’s a magnet in Commie New York. Can’t wait.

    The song “Cat Scratch Fever” takes on a whole new meaning now.

    And you wonder why fewer and fewer people want to do legitimate work. Find a city with a defunded police force and go to work, tax free.

    My demoncratic gov (MI) is giving all of us car owners a rebate of $400 on our catastrophic fund payments we have been making for decades. She is way down in the polls and is making an effort to buy more votes. A $3,000 gift card for replacement cats works for me, not a refund of my own money the insurance companies have been stealing for year after year.

    Thanks to joey and the gang, it’s a greater country than ever!

  3. Just when you think you’ve seen everything:

    https://bit.ly/3o68NT2

    A face diaper on a *bobblehead*??? The Cavaliers last season for Christmas *raffled off* a team-logo face diaper as a *prize*.

    Like Eric says, “And they ask me why I drink…”. 😱

    • Sorry, this post was meant for Diaper Report 1/28/22, but it ended up here. I’ve posted it in the article where I meant to…sorry bout that! ☹️

  4. It’s actually worse than Eric relates, for several reasons:

    1) it is difficult to get a CCW license in California, which is discretionary, and illegal to pull a gun on a thief committing a property crime

    2) The vehicle owner seeking to replace the catalytic converter cannot get just any aftermarket converter, he must get one specifically certified by the California Air Resources Board, or CARB. A CARB-certified cat costs hundreds more than a “Federal” compliant cat, which is legal in about 47 or 48 other states, even though it is virtually identical.

    3) just as with the George Floyd riots, a large number of the perpetrators are nonwhite, but will not be prosecuted because it is politically incorrect to prosecute minorities, while most of the victims are white taxpayers, who will bear the costs.

    • Agree, but it’s where that matters. In my deep blue NE state, it’s impossible to get CCW, and your life must be in eminent danger to use one. In my western red state I recently met the chief of police, we chatted and he says ‘are you carrying?, I want all my residents to carry here’.

    • As a CCW holder and paralegal I will tell you right now no matter what state you live in (Who would live and stay in the state of commiefornia is beyond me) that using or attempting to use deadly force to solely protect property outside of your home is going to land you in jail.

      • Hi Randy,

        Yup. I disagree with this, vehemently (as you probably do too) but it is “the law.” In Virginia, there is in addition an obligation to retreat; said another way, the only lawful use of a firearm in self defense is in cases where the victim can establish to a very high degree of certainty that their life was in imminent danger and there was no other way to preserve it.

          • Unless you are waiting in an SUV with tinted windows its going to be hard to sneak in there and fire it up before they could scoot out. Plus the videos usually show a lookout and a getaway driver so they can abort and run.

      • Some states DO allow for the presentation and/or use of lethal force for the protection of property. As of five or so years ago Califonria was amongst those states that allowed it. LIkely that has changed considering the recnet commiefication of that late great sorry excuse of a state. Someone should check current law there for that. (of true, that would spell a simple end to the wholesale “transfer” of goods being shipped by rail throughthat sorry state… the first three railcar thieves get ventilated, it would all stop in fifteen minutes)

        While many metro counties DO operate on the “shall NOT isue” ardigm they “legally” can adopt, most counties are WILL issue. I remember the YUUUUGE kerfuffle about four years back when the illustrious (and since reelected) sheriff in San Bernardino COUnty (well east of LA, the largest county in the state, ) went on the locla TeeVee station and baldly declared “PLEASE if yu are a law abising citizen and resident of this cunty DO come in and apply for your Conceal Carry Permit. We WANT you to be armed, as we are too few and spread out too thinly to be as effective as we need to be”. OH the LA wonks went ballistic, but he would NOT back down. The percentage of San Bernardino COunty residents with their Mother May I Cards is YUUUUGE> And violent crimes agasint persons, and housebreakings, are VERY low. Small time property theft, not so much, but the local constabulary are hitting that hard.

        I believe the number of active Mother MayI Cards in LA county is in the low three figure range… for a populationof about ten million or so. Heading north, into TUlare County, population maybe half a million, nad over fur TOUSAND active Mother May I Cards as of five years ago, and more since. Petty property crimes are the worst class in that county. Everyone feels safe and secure “out and about”.

  5. Seattle’s finest jumped my fence and stripped my crane of some vital parts to the tune of $50,000 worth of damage (for about $500 worth of copper-maybe). I’m sure the next shoe to drop will be the insurance mafia denying my claim.

  6. Sooner or later, someone’s going to rig a booby trap for his ride, so when someone tries to Sawzall out the cats, or steal other things, or just boost the car itself, instant “street justice”! Of course, especially if the late perp is a “knee-grow” juvenile, all Hell’s gonna break loose at that “racist” car owner that valued his ride more than some “misunderstood kid, who was just getting his life together, an aspiring ‘rap artist’ or street art painter.” THEN watch all law enforcement resources go after the hapless car owner.

    • Hi Doug,

      I thought about that, too… hmmm… how hard would it be to rig up a booby trap of some kind? But you’re right; the owner would likely then face criminal charges for putting the safety of the thief at risk.

      • It is illegal to set a booby trap for any purpose, virtually nation wide. Partially justified, since like any other trap will occasionally catch the wrong critter. On the other hand, as far as I know, it’s not illegal to pretend you have set one. A sticker on a window, “this car protected by a cat bomb”? Sort of like slow down the SWAT team with a five gallon bucket full of rocks with two wires trailing out of it. Most are ex military and know about IEDs.

      • How about +240V wired to the exhaust system and the -ground to a metal ground rod. That way, only a cat thief gets a “charge” out of it! When he is discovered, all crispy the next morning, dismantle the wiring, glove up, drag ’em to the gutter and go about your day. Badged Orcs come around? I don’ know nuttin’. Sort of like “dindoo nuffin” only our side.

        • It’s much harder to kill anyone with electricity than it is portrayed in media.
          As someone who once got a shock from 2kV DC power supply’s output, I can attest to that:) There is a non-trivial number of people who survived direct lightning hit.

          Basically, it’s the current, not voltage, that kills; and the current depends a lot on resistance. Dry hands have high resistance; wet not so much. Also, the effects depend a lot on whether current passes through critical organs (i.e. the heart) or not and if muscle spasm pulls your limbs away from the conductor or causes firmer death grip on it.

        • Hi Doug,

          I think the Dapper Don died of cancer in prison; Sammy the Bull, on the other hand, is out on parole and doing YouTube videos of his recollections.

  7. When opportunity knocks, the tough get going when the going gets tough.

    Must work in threes, one lookout, two cutters, you’ll get more done that way. Going to be a risky business, stealing converters can’t be that much fun, gotta do something for the money.

    50 cats in a night will be five grand. Work three nights per month, don’t sell them, chemically extract the rare earth metals. Then sell the empty cat shell for a hundred dollars. Gots to have a business plan that pays more.

    Wrecking yards must cut out the cats right away.

    • You have an interestingly criminal mind. Hmm, dissolving the palladium or the platinum and selling the catalytic converter to the recycler. First off, there is this observation: if you sell a catalytic converter to a recycler who is expecting it to contain precious metals, and it doesn’t have any, you’re running the risk of no future business with that recycler, at best. Worse, the recycler may decide to help set the police on you. One catalytic converter theft may not meet the $950 threshold, but several might. Worse still, your recycler, if he is crooked too, may not bother with police but may take things personally.

      OK. With that disclaimer out of the way, the technical problem comes next. You don’t want to use a simple acid solution. The reason is that the precious metals usually require something like aqua regia: a solution of hydrochloric and nitric acids. Not only will it be tricky to handle, but making the stuff involves the production of toxic byproducts. On top of that, using stuff like aqua regia will destroy the body of the converter as well as react with the precious metals you hope to extract. On the other hand, it may be possible to go the amalgamation route. The problem with that is that platinum and palladium are not gold, and less amenable to amalgamation with mercury. You’re talking about an industrial process here. I don’t think petty criminals are going to be going to all of this extra work (not to mention expense) just to trick some recyclers with whom they almost certainly want to conduct future business anyway.

    • By the way: these are not “rare earth metals,” which are grouped on the left side of the periodic table. The metals making the catalyst in a catalytic converter are platinum and palladium — platinum group metals. Good criminals are careful, knowledgeable criminals, like Walter White. Know your science! 😀

  8. The political prisoners in the soviet gulags were in a similar situation. The actual criminals, thieves, murders, could do whatever they wanted to the political prisoners/slaves. The guards of course would do nothing to defend the political prisoners. If the political prisoners/slaves defended themselves against the criminals, or enacted their own justice, the guards would punish the political prisoners.

    Whatever is just. Whatever is proper, right, or moral, the inversion is supported and propagated by this system. A domestic terrorist can do whatever they want to a heritage American. The shitlib prosecutor will let them go. If the heritage American defends themselves, their property, or their community against the filth of this world, including the corporate filth, the shitlib prosecutor and their media allies will persecute the victim as the domestic terrorist.

  9. Cat theft has gone up enough in KY that a lot of scrap yards don’t accept them, and the ones that do require ID a Vin# and mail you a check to your physical address. Had a helluva time scrapping out my daughter’s outdated cats. Got $100.00 a piece for them. Thr theft problem easily impeded, but as Eric stated the state doesn’t generally care about curbing crime as much as it cares about leveraging codes and states against it’s competition.

  10. The Biden regime is much like the Carter years. Cat theft being a big problem back in the 1970’s and here it is again! Just like the over all crime wave in the 70’s and today thanks to Democrats.

    Of course the next couple years will result with the over reaction with law enforcement lead by Republicans, like Reagan in the 80’s. Just say no to drugs kids!!

  11. A “solution” that the auto industry will likely come up with is electronic ID’s for the cats. So there is plenty of business for overpriced dealer only installed replacements.

    Never mind that most stolen cats are probably never reinstalled on another vehicle.

    • The cat cons are being swiped for the platinum and palladium they contain; it’s the precious metal ingredients that the thieves are after, not the cat con itself.

  12. Three felonies a day, last I heard. That’s about how many a “law abiding” citizen commits. Which allows for the most evil form of policing. Selective enforcement. When laws are unjust, where should a just man be? Where’s my flag pole? I know I’ve got one around here somewhere.

    • “Show me the man, I’ll show you the crime”. Lavrentiy Pavolvich Beria, head of the KGB.

      THIS is why the US constitution (of blessed memory) codified self-incrimination as a bad thing in the Bill of Rights, and required gooberhead gummint types to have probable cause before hauling you in. Drunk driving checkpoints? Yep, they violate the 4th and 5th Amendments. Roadside sniffer checks? At least the 4th and 5th.

      I have a couple 10′ lengths of EMT, think that will work for the flagpole?

  13. I would say that this will punish owners of gas cars & push the move to electric cars, but those are full of expensive parts like batteries that can maybe also be stolen. So its really a descent to a poverty shithole. Plus hackers could probably redirect autopilot to the chop shop. Sad too cause California was a cool place.

    I bet that muffler shops are in on this scam. Send your guy to steal some catayletic converters. cars come in for new ones, you bill as a replacement and then you collect the money from.the recycle place.

    • A few years ago in Australia a man was caught drilling screws into people’s tyres. Cost to repair a screw hole is $25, now $30. The thief was a tyre shop owner. I have always wondered how those screws manage to go into a round tyre at precisely 90 degrees.
      I have long stated that western pollies knew about the dangers of islam decades ago. Importation of barbarians rose dramatically after the end of the cold war in 1989. That was to keep us in fear that now dissolved with the temporary end of US hostilities against Russia. The climate change agenda livened up at that time but to limit our personal mobility and keep us from evading the barbarians. It all has a purpose, and that purpose is now playing out with forced chemical injections of untested toxic chemicals.

  14. If Kali is this horrific now, try to imagine how vile it will be only two years in the future! Washington and Oregon will be even worse.

    When I evacuated my Kali coastal castle back in ’96, several of my supposedly liberty-minded friends accused me of just “running away”……while they were going to “stay and fight.”

    How’s that working out for you guys?

  15. Be careful, the fix will be to come down hard on cat thefts. The new laws won’t actually reduce the number of cat removals, but will cause the cost of converters on the black market to skyrocket.

    A more creative solution might be to rig a taser to the exhaust line.

  16. Replacement OEM cats are over $1000, not hundreds. Depending on what gets cut like the pre and post o2 sensor bungs you can easily add another $500 in specialized pipes/fittings/wiring/sensors/etc.

    The cheap cats that cost a few hundred are garbage in my experience and last months to a year before either shattering internally or just cease functioning.

    • The environmental cost of mining the elements for the cats far exceeds the “savings” in chemicals emitted at the tailpipe. EPA regs are hastening the destruction of our environment.

    • Yes. But it’s worse than that.

      Friend had cat stolen from 2006(?) Accord, SoCal area. Shop wanted $1500 to replace, if one could be found (a big if – they couldn’t even locate one). Insurance stepped in and said sorry, we aren’t going to pay for that, the repair is what the car is worth. We’ll send you a check for salvage value.

      In one day, friend went from owning a perfectly functional, reliable Honda, completely paid off, to having a check for ~$1000. Looked at used car prices lately? Would cost 5-10x that much to replace the car. So went from having a car with no payment to having no car and looking at a $5-$10K bill to get a new car.

  17. RE: “roadside emissions sniffers, which can tell when a cat-less car passes by”

    What the heck is that? (How does that work?)

    …Are they numerous?

    • Here’s how they do it in Colorado, I assume Californey is similar…

      https://dmv.colorado.gov/rapidscreen

      Rapidscreen, ugh, what a repulsive sheeple name for illegal search and seizure.

      The vans are also used for stealth roadside “emission checkpoints”, I’ve seen them when driving in Colorado. Yep, they claim to know it is YOUR CAR that caused the sniffer to trigger as you blasted past in traffic at 75 mph, so as to send you a ticket based on the license plate attached to the car the sniffer ratted out. I am highly sceptical they can do as they say, it makes me wonder if they just snap random license plate numbers and send tickets out.

  18. Surprising that Commifornia doesn’t make the junk dealers require ID like they do for pawn shops. I worked for the electric company here and copper theft was always a problem, especially times (like now) when copper prices are high. A few geniuses could always be counted on to cut into live wiring (13.8kv) and Darwin themselves out of existence. The bolder ones would break into the service centers late at night but usually got busted because the company had cameras everywhere, plus copper is heavy if you’re trying to steal a whole reel of it so by the time they got it loaded up the cops would be there.

    • We once had a theft in our construction yard. One of the thieves left a ground rod and obviously shorted lead acid battery laying on the ground by the gate. The police checked with the emergency room to see who checked in with chemical and electrical burns on their arms. Turns out it is a bad idea to carry batteries and ground rods in one trip…

      • The pitiful part is there is precious little copper in a ground rod. Most, if not all are copper coated steel. Else you couldn’t drive it in the ground.

        • Exactly. And what do you intend to do with a deep cycle telecom battery? I know some of the boys used to use the old ones for their trolling motors but that’s about it.

    • If Cali isn’t requiring licenses, then it has to be ABSOLUTELY on purpose.

      I had a friend buy a home in a county that DOES NOT require auto-emissions be performed annually. But the home he bought previously belonged to a retired HVAC guy. He had to have the sheriff come to his home and verify to the recyclers that the AC units he sent for recycling were not stolen AC units.

      Absolutely anyone bringing AC units or cats for recycling should be ID’d and logged.

  19. Here in the Soviet of Washington cat cutting a booming business. Daughter #2 works at a suburban mall north of Seattle, her boss had his converter swiped in the mall parking lot middle of the day. I’m rural eastern WA, our town also getting hit with this.

    • the 10.4% king county sales tax funds programs to create “booty pumping” kits and teaching materials for homeless people to literally shove illegal drugs up their asses. They are allowed to annex public lands and steal whatever groceries from nearby stores. Police will not investigate bums who collect 50 bicycles. If you want your bike back, find the thief and purchase it back. Our car registration pays for lite rail. and transit accessible housing is more expensive than what any wagie can afford. Illegal immigrants are not subject to licensing, insurance, taxes or vaccine mandates. They are given m free medical, rent & EBT.

  20. It’s so bad for some models that there are aftermarket products to install that make it very difficult to remove the catalytic convertor. They are essentially heavy gauge steel plates that make it impossible to remove the cat without cutting through/removing the plate. Which while of course possible makes the theft take much longer.

  21. This is a classic case of anarcho-tyranny, a term coined by the late, great Sam Francis in 1992. It is both “anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny — the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes.”

    I think in the case of California it is the left hand unaware of what the right hand is doing. Considering the cost of living in the not-so Golden State, it’s little wonder that its population is now exclusively the billionaire class and the dirt poor hordes, mostly there in defiance of federal law, who crossed the border “seeking a better life.” The middle class folks have decamped for Arizona and Texas.

    I’m a believer in “broken window” policing. It worked in NYC when I lived there during Giuliani’s time as mayor. We don’t want to criminalize too many behaviors, but decriminalizing nearly everything (except hate speech and “pollution”) is pure anarchy. I think the cops are more likely to go after the no-Cat car owner because they’re low-hanging fruit.

    • Thank you, Dr., for reminding me of Sam’s observation – which I got at first-hand from the man himself, it seems a lifetime ago. I added words to that effect in the piece.

      Hat tip!

    • Thanks for posting that.

      I did not know Sam Francis coined that term.

      He sure got it right:
      “To have freedom on a stable political basis, you have to have a homogeneous culture and society, composed of people who share the same values and beliefs.

      If they don’t share them, you can hold them together only by force.”

  22. The takeaway lesson is move to California, invest in an F150 hybrid with ports for power tools like the Sawzall, and start patrolling the streets, looking for easy targets.

    Just be careful where you park the F150 hybrid at night.

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