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Catalytic converters are stolen by the thousands in Las Vegas. Here's why

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Catalytic Converters
Utah Attorney General's Office via AP

In this undated photo provided by the Utah Attorney General's Office, catalytic converters are shown after being seized in a recent investigation.

Imagine you’re sleeping at night, and you suddenly hear a loud buzzing noise. You look out your window and you see two guys get up from below your car with a big piece of what looks to be junk.

Before you know it, they’re gone.

Turns out they’ve taken your car’s catalytic converter.

Catalytic converter theft is running rampant across the Las Vegas Valley, From Jan. 1 to April 8, Las Vegas Metropolitan police reported 784 thefts.

Someone who knows catalytic converters is Bobbie, who declined to use his last name but is the owner of 5 Star Auto Repair on Sahara Avenue. 

They're stolen for the metals used to make them: rhodium, platinum, palladium. Bobbie said they're more expensive than gold.

He said the amount of people coming to his shop looking for catalytic converter repairs or replacements has tripled. Thankfully for some, certain insurance policies cover it. 

"I'm going to say this: California has a very strict policy on their emissions. So a California car has a lot more of these metals. There are two different types of converters. There is a 50-state legal converter, which we call a California converter," he said. "And then there's a 49-state legal converter, which is not legal in California, cannot be used in California. It is actually so high in content of these metals, that it helps the pollution decrease."

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There's no way to know if a converter is stolen, he said, because they don't have serialized numbers or a marked VIN number. Some shops in Las Vegas have the ability to etch converters with the number.

It can cost car owners thousands. Bobbie recently did an insurance claim on a Toyota, and it was $2,800. The car technically works without it, Bobbie said, but "you can have flames coming out there and it is potentially a fire hazard." It's also not street legal. 

He's worked in the auto business for 20 years, but says this has become a much more prominent issue. 

"We are seeing that these precious metals are on the rise, you know, with our economy the way it is," he said. "Is it completely 100% preventable? Yeah, put it in your garage. But that's about it."

 

Guests

Bobbie, owner, 5 Star Auto Repair

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