Catalytic Converter Thefts Continue

March 10, 2009 12:58:27 AM PDT
David Rodriguez knew something was wrong with his car, as soon as he turned the key."I got there and started my car and it sounded like a tractor, you know." He said.

David left his car in the parking lot where he works as a delivery driver, near McKinley and Peach. Somebody crawled underneath and removed the catalytic converter. But that somebody may have been caught in the act. "He's looking inside, seeing if anybody is around." Mike Harkins, who manages the company, showed us a video recording captured by a company security camera. The video shows a man peering into the office window. He had driven up in a gold Honda Accord, parked next to David Rodriguez' Saturn. Looked in the office window a couple of times, and then apparently went to work on the Saturn. The actual crime is not shown on camera. Just the rear end of the Saturn is visible. It took the suspect just ten minutes to do the job, and then drive away.

Harkins was surprised. "It's not usual for somebody to come around here and take something like that." He said.

However, as we were there, Mike discovered the catalytic converters had also been taken from a delivery van, and a truck, parked behind the building. Mike learned another van had been hit two weeks before. Catalytic converters reduce air pollution. They contain small quantities of precious metals. Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium. Platinum and Rhodium currently sell for about $1000 an ounce. Palladium is about $600 an ounce. The average catalytic converter contains just a few grams of these materials. It takes about 30 grams to make an ounce. Used Catalytic Converters have a scrap value of between $20 and $100. Not bad for ten minutes work. But a big expense for victims like David Rodriguez.

"I got a quote from the dealership and I believe it was between six and 7 hundred dollars to install everything, and I was like, you've got to be kidding."

Rodriguez had paid only $600 for the car. He found a muffler shop to do the replacement for $250.

Fresno Police say catalytic converter thefts have dropped in the past year, along with the prices of the precious metals. Last year for example, platinum and palladium were selling for over 2 thousand dollars an ounce. Rhodium had briefly soared to 11 thousand dollars an ounce. However, despite the drop in price, catalytic converters remain a commodity.

The most likely targets of catalytic converter theft are pickups and SUVs' that are easy to get under. But in the case of the Saturn, the thief jacked the car up, and left the jack behind.

Fresno Police have seen the video and are investigating.

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