A law enforcement operation to crack down on vehicle catalytic converter thefts in Perris led to the seizure of more than 400 converters and the identification of unlicensed auto repair shops, authorities said Thursday.

The sweep was conducted Wednesday by the Riverside County Vehicle Dismantler Industry Strike Team, composed of sheriff’s deputies, officers from municipal police agencies and inspectors from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Converters are used to filter engine emissions to cut down on the amount of pollutants discharged by cars and trucks. The devices, located on the underside of vehicles, average about $1,000 apiece.

Sheriff’s Sgt. David Marshall said the strike team sought to identify auto shops allegedly involved in illegally procuring and recycling converters, prompting personnel to pay unannounced visits to 19 automotive businesses throughout Perris.

“Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise and remain a high priority for our agency,” Marshall said.

The operation netted 448 converters, culminating in 15 citations alleging multiple offenses, including unlicensed business activity, according to the sergeant, who did not disclose the names of the shops.

“We encourage vehicle owners to etch or engrave the vehicle license plate or identification number into your catalytic converter to assist law enforcement in recognizing the part as stolen, if it is recovered,” he said.

Additional sting operations are planned in the coming months.

Anyone with information regarding converter thefts was asked to contact sheriff’s Perris station at 951-210-1110, or DMV Investigations at 916-229-0167.

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