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Medford police warn of thefts of Prius part

Following a wave of catalytic converter thefts, including one caught on video in west Medford, police are recommending that local Toyota Prius owners take precautions.

In a video posted Wednesday on the Medford police department’s Facebook page, unidentified thieves can be seen pulling up next to a 2000s model Prius parked on the 600 block of West Second Street, and jacking up the victim’s vehicle.

In the span of one minute and 43 seconds, the thieves make off with a part that could turn into “a quick $200,” according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.

Another apparent theft attempt involving a Prius was reported March 8 in the 100 block of Western Avenue, according to Budreau.

In that case, the owner brought their Prius in for servicing after getting a light on the dash. The mechanic discovered that the wire to the vehicle’s O2 sensor had been cut, but unlike about 10 other vehicles in Medford over the past year, that car kept its catalytic converter.

It’s not clear why thieves didn’t go through with the most recent theft.

“Maybe it was interrupted,” Budreau said.

Although catalytic converters are a common emissions control device on all modern vehicles, the units on hybrid vehicles such as the Prius contain higher amounts of precious metals such as platinum and palladium, according to a Dec. 16, 2019 Forbes report.

Budreau believes ease of access to the part is another factor as to why local thieves are targeting Prius models.

“They’ve figured out a way to get those off fast,” Budreau said.

Catalytic converter thefts routinely leave Prius owners with repair bills in the thousands of dollars.

A catalytic converter theft involving a Prius parked at Providence Medford Medical Center the evening of Jan. 18 cost the owner $2,500 to repair, according to a police report provided by Budreau.

Other catalytic converter thefts reported over the past year that involved Priuses included a Nov. 7 theft in the 1600 block of Veranda Park Drive that cost the owner $2,000 to repair, and an Oct. 22 theft at the Quality Inn in the 1900 block of Biddle Road.

Between August and the first week of October, four Prius catalytic converter thefts were reported in parking lots near Rogue Valley Manor, and two others were reported in a parking lot in the 700 block of Royal Avenue, according to police.

Budreau believes the thieves are “actively looking for Toyota Prius vehicles that are exposed,” and recommends that Prius owners avoid parking on streets and open parking lots.

He believes it’s only a matter of time before thieves start targeting the hybrids while they’re parked in driveways, so he recommends owners consider an anti-theft catalytic converter shield.

A Sacramento, California, muffler business sells a metal shield that bolts onto the car’s chassis under the brand Cat Security. Their website lists independent repair and muffler shops across Oregon that install the shields, including J&L Muffler of Medford. See getcatsecurity.com.

In addition to shields for all Prius variants and model years from 2000 to 2020, Cat Security also makes shields for Honda Element crossovers, the 2005 to 2015 Toyota Tacoma 4WD trucks and Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express vans.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 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.