Catalytic converter thefts increase in Washington, DC

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It only took Heather Pugh 15 minutes shopping at a The Trails store in Silverdale for a thief to cut the catalytic converter on her 2005 Toyota Prius.

At around 1:30 p.m. on December 31, Pugh left Mud Bay on the trails. She started her car in the parking lot and heard a loud noise. A passerby helped take a look below and told him it looked like someone had stolen his catalytic converter.

Pugh saw wires hanging down and a hat left on the snowy ground.

“It was quite shocking that it happened so quickly,” Pugh said.

Pugh drove her car home and then drove to an auto garage, bracing for the cost of the repair.

“If I had known the risk associated with leaving your car in a parking lot, I felt like I wouldn’t go alone, or I would leave someone in the car, or maybe I I’d park right outside a business, you know, just to deter some of that risk, ”Pugh said.

A recent spate of catalytic converter theft seen across the country was seen locally in Kitsap County, as a member of the legislature introduced a bill to try to curb the theft.

Kitsap Flights

Bryan Davis, director of Kitsap Muffler & Brakes on W. Belfair Valley Road in Bremerton, has observed an increase in thefts of catalytic converters in recent months.

Typically, his workshop sees two to three vehicles per month whose catalytic converters need to be replaced after being stolen. But in the past 30 days, Davis said he saw 30 to 40 cars, sometimes as many as two vehicles a day.

“It’s definitely a huge problem here,” Davis said.

A catalytic converter is used in vehicles to control engine exhaust emissions. The device converts toxic gases and pollutants into water vapor and carbon monoxide and is located on a vehicle’s exhaust system between the engine and the muffler.

An increase in the price of the scrap metal that makes up converters is causing people to steal the device, Davis said. Usually thieves look for metals like platinum and rhodium. Sometimes the precious metal is worth more than gold.

The price of rhodium fell from $ 2,000 an ounce on March 20, 2020 to $ 27,000 on March 19, 2021, and fell back to $ 16,500 on January 9, according to Kitco. The price of platinum fell from $ 608 per ounce in March 2020 to $ 1,266 in February 2021 and fell back to $ 959 on Sunday.

For comparison, the price of gold was $ 1,797, according to Kitco.

“I hate to say it because they’re thieves, but they’re smart thieves,” Davis said. “They know what vehicles cats get out of (catalytic converters) because of sufficient dollar value.”

Thieves hitting vehicles of all sizes

It’s not just cars that are in danger.

Gail Sandlin had her RV’s catalytic converter and muffler stolen while on duty at the Clear Creek RV Center in Silverdale.

Sandlin, one of Davis’ customers, took her campervan to Clear Creek RV for minor bodywork in September, and when she picked it up on October 11, it was making a loud noise, he said. she declared.

She went to Kitsap Muffler & Brakes to have the problem diagnosed and found that the catalytic converter had been stolen. She reported the theft to Clear Creek RV, and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office made a report of the theft, Sandlin said.

Clear Creek RV did not return calls to Kitsap Sun to answer questions about the Sandlin case or if other RVs were hit by thieves.

Sandlin said she paid the muffler store $ 915.55 and her insurance company paid the balance.

“All I know is I’m losing a lot of money,” Sandlin said.

Bill wants to crack down on thefts

A state lawmaker introduced a bill this session that seeks to prevent junk yards from buying precious metals from unknown sellers.

Senator Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, deposed last month Senate Bill 5495, which requires state junkyards to produce records for each sale of precious metals, to include the name, address and telephone number of the person selling the metal to the breakage.

If the legislation is passed, scrap companies would only be able to buy catalytic converters from commercial companies or from the owner of the vehicle whose catalytic converter has been removed.

The bill would make it a serious offense for scrap dealers to purchase or receive private metal goods knowing that the goods being traded are stolen. Each violation could be punishable by a fine of $ 1,000.

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office was unable to provide Kitsap Sun with the number of catalytic converter thefts in the past five months at press time.

“We get reports of these (catalytic converter thefts) all the time,” said Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ken Dickinson said. “It is a national trend that those who are robbed.”

Describing such theft as “a common crime,” Dickinson said adding restrictions on the sale of stolen catalytic converters to junkyards could help.

Contact late-breaking reporter Peiyu Lin at pei-yu.lin@kitsapsun.com or on Twitter @peiyulintw.

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