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So my wife called me yesterday and said her car sounded really bad. She said there was a pile of bolts and pieces of metal underneath it and that it was making a really loud noise.

When I got home, I took a look. The catalytic converter was missing.

I called the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and an officer told me there has been a string of such thefts around the Encinitas area, where I live. My wife was told the same thing by mechanics at a few local garages, who said a ring has been going around cutting or unbolting catalytic converters off cars.

According to this story in the Los Angeles Times, the country has seen an “explosion” in the catalytic converter thefts from criminals who steal the converters for the valuable metals contained within them. Those metals have skyrocketed in value in recent times and the converters can be sold to unscrupulous scrap metal dealers. Here’s an extract from the story:

With a common socket wrench and 90 seconds, they leave drivers stuck with cars that sound like Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and facing repair bills topping $1,000.

“It’s an epidemic. It’s everywhere,” said Lt. Bob Turnbull of the El Segundo Police Department.

Thefts of catalytic converters have been logged in the last month in Los Angeles, Pasadena, the Bay Area and Sacramento. Arrests have been reported from Seattle to Virginia, near Pittsburgh, in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and in Tennessee, where the Highway Patrol busted a thief cutting converters from cars impounded in one of its own lots.

“We’ve had them all over the place; we’ve had them in broad daylight in a Vons parking lot,” said Det. Jason Knickerbocker of the Manhattan Beach Police Department. “Most of them are at night. A lot of times, we never find the victim.”

The irony of this whole thing is that I spoke to a woman a couple of weeks ago who pitched me on this story. She told me I should write a story on the criminal ring in North County that is going around stealing catalytic converters.

I guess it would have been even more ironic if I had written the story.

Has this sort of theft happened to you? Get in touch and let me know: will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org

WILL CARLESS

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