TIGARD, OR (KPTV) - Law enforcement across the state of Oregon say they are seeing an alarming number of catalytic converter thefts from cars, busses and pickups. The crime happens in a matter of minutes and can cost vehicle owners thousands in repairs.
State lawmakers in Salem are taking aim and are looking at legislation to put a stop to it. Lawmakers met on Tuesday to discuss the bill and hear public testimony.
Inside those catalytic converters are precious metals, and the price of those metals has skyrocketed. One of the items in a converter is rhodium, which sells right now for more than $24,000 an ounce.
“If you haven’t heard what happens when the catalytic converter is taken off, you know immediately there is something wrong, that is immediately what I noticed,” said State Senator Lew Frederick.
He says he is a victim to this crime along with others in his neighborhood.
“Not only did I have my catalytic converter taken, but the catalytic converter on the Prius for the next block and a half in my neighborhood had been taken as well that night,” Frederick said.
Frederick is one of several lawmakers looking to pass legislation to help make the thefts less appealing. Under the proposed law scrap metal businesses would not be able to purchase or receive catalytic converters unless the seller has a commercial seller’s license. It would also require scrap metal businesses to record certain information.
Sgt. Leigh Erickson with the Tigard Police Department says the crime happens in a matter of minutes. The department has seen an increase in thefts.
“Definitely seen an uptick in the number of catalytic converter thefts over the, well since the beginning of this year. To date I think we’ve had 16 that we have had reported to us, we have had eight in March alone,” Erickson said.
They are not alone in this trend. In the last six months the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has had 37 reports of these thefts up from just a handful that are reported every year.
Tigard Police say there are a few things people can do to try and prevent the thefts:
- Park vehicles in a garage
- If you don’t have a secure garage, park in well-lit and well-travelled areas, ideally with camera surveillance.
- Avoid parking in unattended lots for extended periods of time.
- Secure your catalytic converter with a strap, lock, cage or bolts. Research your options.
- Engrave your license plate or VIN number on the converter, so that it can be identified to you if recovered.
- Look out of your front window if you hear unusual noises outside. There are times when victims heard something but dismissed what was happening.
- Call in suspicious activity to the police. For immediate threats to life or property, or crimes in progress, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, you can contact the non-emergency number at 503-629-0111.