Valley mechanics say Catalytic converter theft is up

FRESNO, Calif.

The small smog-fighting device is small in size but they cost big bucks to replace. Thieves can remove them in a matter of minutes and then sell them for some quick cash. Meanwhile getting a new one can cost you up to $4,000.

Thieves stole Ken Baptista's Catalytic converter from right under his truck earlier this week at an apartment complex in Northeast Fresno. The device reduces vehicle emissions and when it's stolen you know right away.

"The whole sound of the engine goes through that converter and suppresses it. So when you don't have that it's going to be a lot louder than your regular one." said Baptista.

Experts say Toyota's and SUV's are the most popular targets because of their high ground clearance and the fact they're found close to the exhaust. The device contains precious metals including platinum, making it attractive for thieves.

Lessley Metcalf said, "Within the last two weeks, we've seen an increase in us replacing stolen catalytic converters on stolen vehicles."

Local mechanic Lessley Metcalf now sees four to six customers a week who've had their Catalytic converters ripped off. That's up from just one a week in the summer.

Getting a replacement installed averages around $600. But Metcalf says plan on forking over $3,000 - $4,000 for higher end SUV's and luxury cars.

"We're seeing it. It's happening too much. So it's got to be underground. Someone, there's a buyer and as long as there's a buyer to get the cats, people are going to steal them." added Metcalf.

Baptista struck a deal and paid $400 to replace his Catalytic converter. He's still looking at ways to keep his new one on permanently.

"I have an alarm system and it's like it really didn't go off so I'm wondering what I do now. What type of alarm system do I need that is going to protect stuff outside the car." said Baptista.

Experts say welding on your catalytic converter is probably your best bet. Another option might be to have someone engrave a serial number of your license plate on the device so that it can't be sold to a recycling yard.

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