SACRAMENTO, Calif — Thousands of dollars of precious metals may be underneath your car and your car could be next.
Are catalytic converter thefts on the rise? Recent reports and news releases from local police and sheriff's offices seem to indicate there has been an uptick, but what does the research show?
ABC10's sources are crime statistics of all major police departments and sheriffs' offices in our region, head of Sacramento County Sheriff's Office Metal Theft Task Force Detective Tom McCue, and Muffler Tech owner Colby Sandman.
David Larzelere went to the movies recently and came out to the parking lot to find car parts all over the ground and his catalytic converter gone.
"I went to escape from reality to go see a movie, and I come out and here's reality in your face. It's a bad way to end the evening," Larzelere said.
Now, his car is in the shop. While he has insurance, it is still a major inconvenience.
"$500, just gone. It was an expensive movie-going experience," Larzelere said.
The cost to repair a car with a stolen catalytic converter can range on the low end from about $600 to $700 and, on the more expensive end, as high as $9,000, according to Sandman.
"We average somewhere between 20 to 30 cars a day, and I'd say at least 50% are catalytic converters," Sandman said.
Sandman has seen a major increase in catalytic converter thefts and repairs, and it started right around the time the pandemic started.
Crime statistics support what Sandman has experienced.
Out of 12 major police departments and sheriff's offices in our area, every single agency is reporting an increase in catalytic converter thefts and attempted thefts.
For the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, 467 catalytic converters were reported stolen in 2019. In 2020, the reported catalytic converters stolen rose to 1,131.
Roseville Police Department is also seeing a large increase.
In 2019, 68 were stolen and then, in 2020, it rose to 273. So far in 2021, more than 130 catalytic converters have been reported stolen. The 2021 number, so far, surpasses a three year total of 110 catalytic converter thefts from 2017 to 2019.
Every department that got back to ABC10 with crime statistics are showing an increase.
Detective McCue said it's a crime of opportunity that has turned into organized crime.
"There are the guys that go on to the street, and that guy can get anywhere from $100 to $250. Then, he delivers that to a middle guy, he will buy it for about $400, then he turns it up to a smelter. He will obtain about $800. Smelter is getting $400," Detective McCue said.
Another reason for the crime increase is how easy it can be for thieves to cut a converter off a car.
"They can get under that car and cut that catalytic converter in less than one minute and they are gone," said Detective McCue.
Patterson Police Services recently arrested several men with several catalytic converters on them. The police department said they could get $1,000 a converter.
ABC10 can verify that catalytic converter thefts are on the rise, especially from 2019 to 2020 to 2021.