Wednesday Jan 06 2010
Catalytic converter thefts sweep city
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
Rocklin Police find Toyotas are targeted in crimes
Despite a new law, a rash of catalytic converter thefts are plaguing Rocklin neighborhoods. Rocklin resident Scott Snyder got an unwelcome New Year’s Eve surprise outside his Fleet Circle home when his catalytic converter was swiped from his truck. “My truck was in the driveway. I went to start it up and it was so loud like it didn’t have a muffler,” Snyder said. That’s when he realized someone cut off the catalytic converter from his Toyota pick-up. “Someone came on my property, out in the open, under a street lamp and took it,” Snyder said. “I was angry and I wanted some retribution, but what can you do but call the police?” Located in the exhaust system, converters contain precious metals like platinum, rhodium or palladium. Melted down, they can fetch upwards of $1,500 per ounce. According to police, thieves usually just sell it to a scrap yard or a recycler for about $30. Sierra College student Ben Longwill had his converter cut off New Year’s Eve and had to pay hundreds of dollars to get his Toyota 4 Runner fixed. Some dealers are charging as much as $1,500 to replace the converters. “I am a full-time student and I work part time. I don’t have that kind of money,” Longwill said. According to police, 12 Rocklin victims reported similar thefts from their Toyotas over the New Year’s holiday. “They crawl under the vehicle and saw it off with a hacksaw or unbolt it,” said Rocklin Police Lt. Lon Milka. “It is a very difficult crime to catch.” A new state law, which took effect Jan. 1 hopes to curb the crime and mandates recyclers create a paper trail for all converter transactions to deter criminals from selling stolen units as scrap. Recyclers must pay for converters with a check mailed to the seller’s address or picked up after a three-day delay. That gives officers like Milka time to catch up to the bad guys. Milka said people should park their vehicles out of sight, in the garage or in the back yard. “If you see them, call us right away,” Milka said. “Get a vehicle description.” For Snyder, the theft has been a wake-up call. “As soon as I found out about this, I called my friend who has a Toyota. I’m now trying to get the word out to protect people,” Snyder said.