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Catalytic converter thefts spike in Bakersfield

"So I just figured they got me."
Posted: 5:10 PM, May 03, 2021
Updated: 2021-05-25 16:50:32-04
Catalytic Converter Thefts
Catalytic Converter Thefts

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Chances are you or someone you know may have been a victim of catalytic converter theft. it's been a common problem this year and the crime continues to grow.

Catalytic converters are part of a car's exhaust system. They work by converting chemicals from the exhaust into less harmful ones. The parts are attached to the bottom of cars which makes them easy to steal. Most times thieves can remove one with a wrench and a power saw in about a minute.

Catalytic Converter Thefts

And that has been the case for many people in Bakersfield. BPD has reported a significant rise in catalytic converter thefts so far this year.

It's definitely been a very frustrating time for hundreds of Bakersfield residents as not only is replacing a catalytic converter is expensive but it’s also a very lengthy process.

Lynsie McRoberts had her catalytic converters stolen off her Toyota SUV a few weeks ago, and according to Bakersfield Police Detective Jessica Amos, she’s just one of many.

Lynsie McRoberts

"I didn't know what sound it made. So I texted my dad. I'm like, 'uhh, something is not right' and he told me 'yup, that's your catalytic converter.' So I just figured they got me," said McRoberts.

"We have an increase in them being stolen right now throughout the city," explained Amos. "We are looking at about 450 right now for the year."

The increase comes as the price of platinum, rhodium, and palladium metals used to make catalytic converters continues to rise as other countries like China and Europe crack down on car emissions.

“They're selling them to either recycling places. There are different auto body shops that we have information on them purchasing these," said Amos.

Auto repair businesses like Bob's Muffler Shop have been slammed with repair requests.

James Clemmons

"We usually get like 20 to 30 a day," said James Clemmons, owner of Bob's Muffler Shop. The phone is ringing till we open in the morning till we close at night. We got a call waiting, and it doesn't stop all day long."

Replacing or fixing those converters is not a quick process. Some of those requests, like for McRoberts can take weeks or even months to complete.

"It's happening so quick. They've fallen behind on their manufacturing," said Clemmons. "Some of the dealer 'cats' are six to eight months out. They don't have anything.”

Tips to Avoid Catalytic Converter Thefts

The price tag can range in the thousands without insurance. An inconvenience BPD says people may be able to avoid by parking in well-lit areas or garages if possible, engraving your car's VIN number onto the catalytic converter, and installing an anti-theft device.

"It's very inconvenient. Very frustrating," said McRoberts. "But what can you do?"

If you drive a SUV or a truck those tips are extra important as it's much easier to get underneath the vehicle saving the thief time from having to jack it up.

The BPD said that they have received information of a few auto shops in town that are purchasing these parts either to refurbish or to reuse. They didn't go into detail on how they are going to enforce the issue but it’s something they are investigating.

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 nearly $3,000 an ounce. Platinum is roughly $1,200 per ounce. And rhodium was selling for $29,500 per ounce.

Keep in mind, catalytic converters aren't made entirely of these metals.