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San Mateo, CA Police Department
Thursday November 17th, 2022 :: 10:54 a.m. PST


SMPD becomes the first law enforcement agency in California to offer CATGUARD to help thwart catalytic converter theft.

San Mateo, CA – During the COVID-19 pandemic, theft of auto parts, including catalytic converters, surged. California led the nation in reported catalytic converter theft cases with over ten thousand reported between July 2021 and June 2022. San Mateo was not immune to the spike in catalytic converter thefts. Several factors made catalytic converter theft extremely attractive for thieves. Catalytic converters can be stolen in less than a minute without being detected, and they are not easily identifiable or traceable, which made them easy to sell for lucrative payouts at scrap metal yards.

The San Mateo Police Department recognized the effect catalytic converter theft had on its community members and took action to combat the problem. The department purchased (500) CATGUARD self-install marking kits for residents of San Mateo. The marking kits include two ultra-destruct labels with an identification number (that will break into pieces if an attempt is made to remove it), metal etching fluid, two windows stickers, and information on how to register in the CATGUARD database.

CATGUARD works by placing an ultra-destruct sticker with a unique serial number on a cold catalytic converter. The metal etching fluid is applied over the sticker. The engine of the vehicle is then started to heat the converter, which results in the unique number from the sticker being etched onto the catalytic converter. The unique number is then registered into the CATGUARD database, which will allow law enforcement to trace the converter to a specific vehicle if the converter is stolen and later recovered. Additionally, vehicle owners can place the two warning stickers on the vehicle to prove enrollment in the database and possibly deter thieves from targeting the vehicle.

The San Mateo Police Department selected CATGUARD kits because of how easily, quickly, and conveniently they can be installed by a vehicle owner. Unlike traditional “etch and sketch” campaigns which require the assistance of mechanics or persons comfortable with power tools, CATGUARD can easily be installed by a lay person. Nevertheless, the department has partnered with three local auto body shops across the city: Claremont Automotive (945 S Claremont St.), E&J Auto Repair (317 S Norfolk St. #3010), and Ma’s Auto Repair & Smog (2660 S El Camino Real) to assist those residents who are apprehensive about installing the sticker on their catalytic converters by themselves.

SMPD chose to implement this program now because it compliments recent legislation scheduled to become law next year. Beginning January 1, 2023, the law defines who may sell or purchase catalytic converters and ensures a seller of a catalytic converter is the verifiable owner of the catalytic converter prior to sale. The department believes that providing residents with a way to mark and to trace their catalytic converters coupled with the new legislation will provide residents with the greatest deterrence of catalytic converter theft in the future.

San Mateo Police Department Chief Ed Barberini emphasized his confidence and enthusiasm for the program. Chief Barberini said, “Catalytic converter theft is a problem that requires a proactive, timely, and innovative response. This program, in conjunction with new legislation, actively addresses this challenging issue and seeks to significantly limit one’s ability to profit from this type of crime. I am excited about the implementation of this program and grateful to our partners for helping to make this possible. I look forward to solid and tangible results from this effort.”

San Mateo residents are encouraged to participate in SMPD’s free program to deter catalytic converter theft. Beginning November 17, 2022, San Mateo residents can sign up at Residents will be selected on a first come and first served basis and a limit of one kit per household. The first eligible (500) residents will be notified by email the week of November 28, 2022. The San Mateo Police Department hopes to make more CATGUARD kits available at a later date. 

San Mateo, CA Police Department
200 Franklin Pkwy
San Mateo, CA 94403

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 650-522-7700

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