Thieves Target Catalytic Converters

August 5, 2008 12:19:19 AM PDT
The tiny piece is found under your car and thieves are turning it into big money.Police officers across the valley say they're seeing a rise in the number of Catalytic Converters being stolen.

In just a few minutes your Catalytic Converter can be stolen. At a recycling yard thieves get about $50 bucks ... $200 on the black market. But it can cost more than 1000 to replace.

The annoying tractor like sound was the dead giveaway something was wrong when Bob Gipson started his Toyota pick up Monday morning.

Bob Gipson, Theft Victim: "It was really bad. I pulled it into the driveway and looked underneath and noticed there was a piece missing between the muffler and the exhaust."

A look underneath and it's clear ... The Catalytic Converter is gone.

The repair cost, including labor about the blue book value of his 1993 Toyota truck.

"It's ridiculous, it's almost more than the truck itself. I mean it's an old truck so. I really wasn't planning on putting that kind of money into it."

Catalytic Converter thefts have spiked in Fresno over the past month. 32 vehicles had the expensive part stolen in July. Primarily the targets are late model Toyota Pickups and SUV's.

The rip-off is fast and easy.

"So it takes normally maybe two to three minutes."

Gonzalo Ramirez works at a wrecking yard and says Toyota trucks have a few qualities that make them even more enticing.

Gonzalo Ramirez, Bauer's Auto Wrecking: "Those tend to be a little bit higher off the ground, it gives a little bit more room. And they tend to come with a larger Catalytic Converter which is worth a little bit more money so I would imagine they want to go for the big score."

Catalytic Converters are loaded with small amounts of precious metals including platinum ... they are located near the driver's side of the car and are intended to clean engine fumes before they are released into the air.

Mechanics say welding the Catalytic Converter on has proved to be the best deterrent so far.

Car dealerships say they've noticed the rash of Catalytic Converters they are replacing these days. The victim we talked to says he's getting his repaired and it will be welded in place.

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