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‘Etch and catch’ event aims to deter catalytic converter thieves

Rocklin PD, Sierra College Auto Club team up
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald and Press Tribune editor
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Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in Rocklin, and Rocklin police are looking to help vehicle owners protect their property by offering a free etching event Saturday.

On Saturday, the Rocklin Police Department and Sierra College Auto Club will join forces to provide free catalytic converter etchings for up to 400 vehicles. The vehicle’s license plate number will be etched on to the catalytic converters to provide police the information they need to identify stolen property, contact theft victims and apprehend criminals.

The first nine months of 2011 saw 52 catalytic converter thefts; 62 have been stolen in the same time period this year, according to Officer Mike Nottoli.

“The metals within the converters have value,” Nottoli explained. “So the criminals steal them and they take them to metal recycle shops, and they in turn get money for their deeds.”

Catalytic converter thefts can happen within minutes, and they’re an expensive inconvenience for vehicle owners. Nottoli said replacing a catalytic converter, which reduces toxic fumes from car engines – can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000.

This is the third etching event the department has hosted and the second in partnership with the Sierra College Auto Club. Club adviser Alex Wong explained that the etchings will be provided in 15-minute increments. Club members will put the vehicles on hoists in the college’s four auto bays and use an etcher to put the license plate number on the converters.

“We will put the license plate number on the catalytic converter housing itself, and then we use a high heat-resistant paint and basically put a circle around it so it can be easily spotted and identified.”

When not helping out at free public service events like the etching, Wong said the club members spend their time learning about cars and participating in auto events, including drag racing in Sacramento. The 20 or so members are building an off-road Mini Baja vehicle to compete against other student clubs.

Wong, an automotive instructor at Sierra, said an important function of the club is that its more senior members serve as mentors to new members. The etching event will include a raffle to raise money for the club. Winners need not be present. Tickets will be sold for $1 each, 10 for $5 and 20 for $10, with prizes including three oil changes from John L. Sullivan Chevrolet and Roseville Toyota, a $250 Chick Fil-A gift basket, $100 Starbucks gift basket, $50 Les Schwab gift certificate and $50 gift certificate to Five Star Car Wash.

People who have their catalytic converters etched Saturday will be given a decal stating, “This catalytic converter has been etched by the Rocklin PD,” which Nottoli said should help deter potential thieves.

“People who see that hopefully will think twice about hitting that vehicle,” he said.

And if it doesn’t, he added, reputable metal recyclers will see the etching and notify the police.

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Catalytic converter etching

When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3

Where: Sierra College auto shop, 5000 Rocklin Road

Cost: Free

Register: 625-5418. Leave your name, telephone number, vehicle make and model, license plate number and the most convenient time for you to attend. Your call will be returned and all attempts will be made to accommodate the requested time.