VIGO Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) Catalytic converters have long been a target for thieves, but a number of communities across the country have seen an uptick in thefts recently.

“It’s been happening for the last ten years, but it’s really gone through the roof because I think, unfortunately, with people being out of jobs, they find creative ways to make money,”  Roger Perry, with G&G Auto Repair in Bakersfield California told Nexstar’s KGET.

Sheriff’s Deputies recently found over 300 apparently stolen catalytic converters in a single bust at a storage facility in California’s Marin County, Nexstar’s KRON reports.

These catalytic converters were recovered from a storage facility. (Photo: Marin County Sheriff)

Here’s a look at what makes the devices so attractive to thieves and why the theft is such a headache for vehicle owners.

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is an emissions control device that’s in the exhaust system, found underneath a vehicle.

The device makes it so that carbon monoxide is not coming out of a vehicle’s tailpipe and being spread into the environment.

Why do people want to steal them?

Inside a catalytic converter are three valuable metals, platinum, rhodium and palladium, according to Steve Finzel, owner of Finzel’s Mastertech.

Those who steal catalytic converters try to sell them once they remove the part from the car. They can be sold for up to $150, depending on the size of the converter.

How are they taken and how do you know if it’s happened to you?

Catalytic converters can be cut out from underneath a vehicle. Finzel said some thieves have gotten so good at removing them, that it can be done within minutes.

“We’ve had customers that have gone out from being in a store, start the car up, don’t know what has happened,” he said.

If a person starts the car and it is extremely loud, it is likely that the cat converter was stolen.

Can this problem be fixed?

Catalytic converters can be repaired or replaced, but it can be an expensive fix. Finzel said it can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the assembly type.

Does insurance cover this?

According to J.D. Pizzola with State Farm Insurance, comprehensive insurance for your vehicle can help with necessary repairs.

What are the penalties for catalytic converter theft?

Penalties vary by state. In Indiana, for example, catalytic converter theft is a misdemeanor. However, proposed legislation would make it a felony eligible for at least six months of jail time and/or a fine up to $10,000.

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