Thieves Target Catalytic Converters for Platinum
By Abby Sewell, Desert Dispatch, Barstow, Calif.
Jul. 18–BARSTOW — Metal thieves recently zeroed in on another source of cash, and Barstow car owners are paying the price.
Barstow police said thieves have been targeting catalytic converters, a vehicle-emission-reducing device that is mandated by law.
Over the last weekend, Barstow Police Department Detective Jeremy Bledsoe said police received at least 10 reports of stolen catalytic converters in Barstow. The thefts occurred at locations scattered throughout the city, but mainly on the east side of town, he said. The thieves targeted Toyotas, probably because of the catalytic converters’ easy bolt-on assembly, he said.
The main value of the catalytic converter lies in the platinum they contain, Bledsoe said.
Terry Gasche, office manager at Discount Auto Center on West Main Street, said she has heard more frequent reports of stolen catalytic converters in the past couple of months as the price of platinum has risen. It would take a thief with a wrench about three minutes to complete the removal on a Toyota truck, she said. Those three minutes leave the vehicle
owner with a louder engine and a slimmer bank account.
A man whose catalytic converter had been stolen from his Toyota Tacoma came into the shop on Monday. She quoted him $475 for a replacement.
In the meantime, the thief likely sold the part for $75 to $250, she said.
A Barstow police report estimated that thieves could sell the part for $15 to $200 and the victim would spend anywhere from $150 to $1,800 to replace it.
Bledsoe said police have not determined whether the thefts over the weekend were the work of one thief or more, and whether the thieves were based in Barstow or outside of town.
All Recycling Center manager Daniel Gonzalez said the center does not track the number of catalytic converters brought in for sale. Representatives of Central Metal, Inc. in Hinkley did not respond to a call for comment.
To increase the odds of retrieving a stolen catalytic converter, owners should engrave an identifying mark on the device, so it can be identified by police if it turns up at a scrap yard, Bledsoe said.
Anyone with information about the recent thefts is asked to contact Detective Corporal Jeremy Bledsoe at (760) 255-5183 or the Barstow Police Department at 256-2211. To remain anonymous, call WE-TIP at 1-800-78-CRIME or leave information on the WeTip Web site at www.wetip.com.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Desert Dispatch, Barstow, Calif.
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