BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — You get in your car and turn it on and suddenly something doesn't sound right. Well if you live in California or right here in Bakersfield, it’s probably because your catalytic converter was stolen. And it’s becoming more of a problem.
23ABC’s Brianna Willis takes an in-depth look at this ongoing issue.
Catalytic converter thefts have tripled in the city of Bakersfield so far this year compared to last year and the Bakersfield Police Department says many thieves are repeat offenders that just continue to steal them no matter how many times they’re arrested.
"The reality of it is that it only takes seconds to get under the vehicle and to remove this valuable device that then is resold or recycled," explained Sgt. Robert Pair of the Bakersfield Police Department.
It’s no secret that catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise for years across the nation. Natalie Richard’s husband was just one of thousands of people this year in Bakersfield that had his converter stolen.
“It’s just really frustrating because the catalytic convertors, they got both of his, they’re $600 a piece plus labor. So we’re going to have to come out of pocket for that.”
In 2019, 188 people reported their catalytic convertor stolen to BPD, 578 people in 2020, and as of July 27th this year 1,374 people reported their converters stolen. That’s an increase of 630 percent in the last 2 years.
That increase continues across the county as well with the Kern County Sheriff's Office reporting 35 thefts in 2019, 197 in 2020, and 388 in 2021 as of August 11th for an increase of over 1,000 percent.
“A year ago if you would’ve asked me about catalytic convertor’s I would have no idea what you’re talking about, but now we all have become experts in these devices and understand that they contain precious metals and that’s ultimately the biggest driving force is the value of these metals,” said Sgt. Pair.
Sgt. Pair also adds that this issue is not unique to Bakersfield or any particular group – it's an ongoing problem.
“It’s a huge issue and it's an issue that impacts every area of town, every socioeconomic level and it impacts people’s ability to travel, so it impacts peoples ability to go to work. It's expensive.”
Steve McGlothin from No Muff Too Tuff specializes in helping people save their catalytic converters. McGlothin uses rebar metal on the convertor to prevent people from being able to take them.
“Converters are like $4,000 and it's only like $120 to save them,” he explains. “Then when they hit the rebar, it stopped them right here. So I saved this gentleman’s converters and the thief got nothing.”
But even with this protection, Richards says this crime alone makes her want to leave California.
"California is one of four states that require catalytic converters, so honestly could move out of state and not replace them if we didn’t want to stay. So it’s kind of getting to that point where it's like weighing my options I guess.”
Sgt. Pair also says that he understands the community’s frustration but it's important to know that there is still a record level of crime and they are doing everything they can to protect public safety.
You might be wondering what makes catalytic converters so valuable.
Catalytic converters are made of a combination of platinum, palladium, and rhodium. All of those metals can be expensive making them ideal to sell for some quick cash.
Palladium is currently worth just over $2,000 an ounce. Platinum is over $900 per ounce. And rhodium was selling for $15,450 per ounce. One standard catalytic converter contains about 2-7 grams of palladium, 3-7 grams of platinum, and 1-2 grams of rhodium.
That means the converter could be worth (at the high end) over $1,700.