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Medford police warn of Prius metal thefts

Medford police are warning Toyota Prius owners that thieves are stealing emissions control equipment from the hybrid cars.

A half-dozen Prius owners have reported catalytic converters stolen from their cars over the past two months in east Medford parking lots, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.

Four of the thefts were reported in a parking lot near the Rogue Valley Manor in the 1200 block on Mira Mar Avenue, while two others were reported in a parking lot in the 700 block of Royal Avenue.

“They’re specifically targeting this car,” Budreau said.

Police believe they’re picking all years of Prius models because the part, which uses precious metals such as palladium to convert a gas engine’s exhaust gases into less toxic pollutants, is easier to access than on other vehicles, according to Budreau.

“Also they must be getting a higher yield in the scrap yards,” Budreau said.

Replacing the catalytic converter can cost thousands of dollars, according to Medford police. Thieves get from $20 to $200 for the metal inside the part.

Budreau said police have developed a good relationship with local scrap metal yards in response to the rise in copper thefts several years ago. Today, local scrap yards document all sales, including photographs of the item and photographs of the individual who brought it.

The police department is working with scrap yards for what to watch for.

“I’m not sure if they would even know what vehicle it’s from,” Budreau said.

Prior to a wave of thefts that occurred in September and October, Medford police saw only two catalytic converter thefts spaced months apart in early 2020. One involved a truck and another a sedan. In fact, Budreau said in the past trucks and SUVs were a more vulnerable target because the vehicles are higher off the ground.

“Every vehicle is pretty much susceptible to this,” Budreau said.

Budreau recommends vehicle owners park their vehicle in a garage if possible, or park under street lights.

Southern Oregon is not the first to see a wave of catalytic converter thefts targeting Prius models. The Guardian reported earlier this year about crime waves targeting Toyota Prius models in London.

A Sacramento, California-based muffler business sells a shield that bolts onto the chassis called Cat Security; however the nearest dealerships and repair shops that install the roughly $200 shield are in Northern California or the Portland metro area.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Medford police warn of thieves stealing catalytic converters from Toyota Prius models such as this one. 123RF.com photo.