ROCKLIN, Calif. (KTXL) — The Placer County Sheriff’s Office is teaming up with local auto body shops to try to curb the surge of catalytic converter thefts.
In just the last five months, the sheriff’s office has reported 57 documented catalytic converter thefts but say even more could be happening.
“What we mean by that is that not all of these actually came in as reports,” said Placer County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Angela Musallam. “Some people just called us to let us know but they didn’t want to file a report. There are definitely more than 57 in the last five months, for sure.”
Musallam said these crimes of opportunity are not just hitting local carports anymore. She said in March, deputies arrested four men, two of whom stole three catalytic converters from cars at local auto body shops.
“The idea is that the auto shop is like the car lot, right? And so at night, there isn’t anybody working versus in a neighborhood,” she told FOX40.
Which is why the sheriff’s office has launched a new program and is working closely with shops like Scott Dwillis’ Knutz Auto & Truck in Rocklin after they were hit hard by catalytic converter crooks in 2019.
“We got hit about $9,000 worth of cats that year. So we took some precautions, we put up a lot of cameras,” Dwillis explained. “We also had to put up a $9,000 fence with some barbed wire and stuff to try to keep these guys out of here.”
Dwillis said thieves will likely use a large electric Sawzall to cut converters free. It can be as quick as five to 15 minutes.
For $15, Dwillis is offering to inscribe the plate or vehicle identification number on customers’ catalytic converters, while also stenciling a brightly-colored Placer County sheriff’s logo. He hopes that will deter criminals from selling stolen catalytic converters for the precious metals inside that can cost upwards of $4,000.
Rather than taking catalytic converters to a local recycling shop, Dwillis said these criminals will likely sell to mobile scrappers for a large profit, who will then sell them on the black market for the valuable mesh material inside.
“In the last six months, I’ve seen at least a double impact of people coming in with their cats either stolen or halfway chopped off,” Dwillis said. “I just got this launched on Monday and we’ve actually done about five or six services already.”
Depending on a vehicle’s make and model, Dwillis said the value on catalytic converters has also risen tremendously as dealerships and auto shops endure a long backlog of the part due to all the thefts.
“I just had a Honda Accord in here the other day, and it cost $4,800 to repair that vehicle,” he said.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Office is hoping more auto shops will join their program to curb the growing trend.
“I feel real bad and anything we can kind of give back to the community and try to help out a little bit, that’s what we’ll try to do,” Dwillis said.
Knutz Auto & Truck is located at 901 Placer Blvd. and can be contacted at 916-337-7993.
Placer County auto body shops interested in joining the program can email firstname.lastname@example.org.