A woman who was sleeping in a Target parking lot near Los Angeles, Calif. fatally ran over a man who was trying to steal her catalytic converter last Tuesday evening, authorities said.
The woman, who remains unidentified, was awakened by the sound of sawing from underneath her truck, according to CBS Los Angeles. She then tried to back out of her parking spot, but stopped her vehicle when she felt a bump under her wheels.
Upon exiting the vehicle and seeing a man under her truck, she called 911. The man was transported to Antelope Valley Hospital where he later died.
The woman has not been charged in the incident; however, three other suspects that were parked near the scene were taken into custody.
Los Angeles Sheriff Department (LASD) is reportedly presenting the incident to the district attorney office as a justifiable homicide while suggesting official charges of conspiracy to commit grand theft auto be filed against the detained suspects.
California law enforcement has noted a rise in catalytic converter thefts, with a Tweet by LA County Sheriffs on Feb 2 detailing a successful operation lead by the Antelope Valley Cat Crusaders, a task force operation between Lancaster Sheriff and Palmdale Sheriff stations, that culminated in the retrieval of 41 stolen catalytic converters, as well as several firearms and so-called “ghost guns.”
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), catalytic converter thefts have increased 1,215 percent between 2019 and 2022 nationally. These parts are valuable to thieves due to their metal content and can be sold for as much as $350 a piece.
As these car parts are not required to be printed with a vehicle identification number (VIN), stolen parts are virtually untraceable while targeted owners are left with a replacement bill averaging $2,500.
A bill that seeks to strengthen penalties for catalytic converter thefts while aiding law enforcement in recovery of stolen goods was introduced into the House of Representatives on Jan. 30 of 2023.
Supported by both Republicans and Democrats, H.R. 621 would require the VIN number to be printed on catalytic converters, require parts purchasers to retain identifying records on sellers of parts in transactions as well as enforce stricter criminal penalties for theft.
Car owners can take steps to protect themselves against thieves. While thefts of catalytic converters tend to be more common on hybrids, sport utility vehicles and trucks, any vehicle can be targeted. Owners can have after-market anti-theft devices installed by their mechanics or paint their converters a distinctive color. Other preventative measures include choosing secure, well-lit parking spaces and installing motion-detecting lights in driveways.