SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lights, cameras, locks, and fences did not stop people from breaking into Tommy Dao's auto shop to try and steal catalytic converters from his customer's cars.
"They also drew a hole in the gas tank, they took the gas out of it," he said as he pointed to one of his costumer's cars.
"There’s not much you can do," he explained. "People go to a grocery store, they come out, and their cat be missing"
California ranks number one for catalytic converter thefts, according to State Farm's new analysis. It far outnumbers the state that comes in after it by double.
Dao also gets multiple calls weekly from people asking if he’ll purchase their used parts.
“They probably called me like two or three times a week, I always say 'no' because it was probably stolen from somebody else’s car,” he said.
Dao said that there are certain safety measures that you can put in place, like putting rebar around your catalytic converter, or even wiring, but at the end of the day, he said that’s only going to slow them down for a few minutes. It won’t stop them altogether.
Dao’s shop is just one of at least five on one road that thieves targeted.
“It’s extremely expensive," Business Owner Tom Paget explained. "The Toyota pickup truck was over $3,000, the Ford pickup truck was no longer available at all.”
It's expensive for Paget’s customers and expensive for him.
"My insurance had been canceled because of the loss, the amount of cost to the insurance company, to them it wasn't worth it any longer. And I'm sure I'm not the only one," he said.
Amy Harris from State Farm said California comes in first for the number of 2021 claims followed by Texas, Illinois, Washington, and Minnesota.
“In California, we've seen about a 720% increase in the thefts from 2019 to 21,” Harris said.
The golden state accounted for a third of all their claims paid out.
There are two bills right now aimed at helping the issue.
SB986 would require dealers or retailers to mark the converters on new cars with the vehicle's identification number.
"The people who buy them don't care if there's ID numbers on them," Paget said.
AB 2398, would make it a crime to possess a catalytic converter that has been detached from a car without documentation.
The bill would require those in possession of a detached catalytic converter to also have a certificate of title for the car it was detached from.
If they do not have the car's title, those with detached catalytic converters would be required to have written authorization from the person holding the certificate of title or the car's registration, or they would need evidence that the catalytic converter was acquired through a lawful transaction.
“They need to start with whoever it is it's purchasing them, and if they have no value any longer or there's no place to sell them, then I think it'll die down,” Paget said.
Some of these owners have seen the thefts live on their security cameras or in person as it’s happening, but it happens so fast the police don’t get there in time, and then it’s hard to move forward from there.
Experts say to park in a well-lit garage, but Paget and Dao said it's happened in broad daylight.