STOCKTON, Calif. — Surveillance video released to ABC10 Monday appears to catch someone trying to steal a catalytic converter from a car in Stockton.
The video shows someone lying on the ground holding a flashlight and what appears to be a Sawzall, or an electric saw. The person gets up off the ground and walks away before actually removing anything from the car.
Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in Stockton, according to police Officer Joseph Silva. Recent statistics show there were 17 thefts in September, 25 in October and 43 in November.
Catalytic converters are important parts because they convert harmful car exhausts like hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. They do this by using precious metals, something which also makes them very valuable.
Silva said there are steps people can take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of such theft. He advised drivers park in well-lit areas near the entrance to buildings, parking inside garages with the doors closed, and even etching your car's vehicle identification number directly onto the catalytic converter.
Gurelle Fletcher with Mike & Sons, an automotive shoo in Sacramento, said he’s seen a steady stream of thefts in recent months, estimating around 20 customers coming through the business’ doors since May.
"Most people will try to go for this one, because it's real easy," said Fletcher, pointing to the silver catalytic converter. "Simple pipe cutter, right here, right here at the back. Four to five minutes — they're gone."
Fletcher said some types of cars are more likely to be targeted because of where their catalytic converters are located and how easy they are to remove.
"Those are very easy to get to because all they got to do is slide underneath the car with the pipe cutter," Fletcher said. "Literally within minutes they're gone. It's not hard at all."
Shops like Mike & Sons will install metal cages around the converters which usually deter thieves because "they can’t get the pipe cutter around it, so it takes a little bit longer, and then it’s just a hassle."
Still, Todd Glader, who also works in the car industry, said the thieves are only half of the equation, and that lawmakers are going to have to find a way to step in and prevent people from actually buying the stolen parts.
"Certainly you’re going to always have the thieves running around, but the root of the problem comes from people that give them money for them," Glader said.
Follow the conversation on Facebook with Mike Duffy.
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