SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The shop owner at Barrio Auto Service in Sherman Heights happens to sell and weld a key ingredient used in every car sold in the United States.
Its what's known as a catalytic converter and its become so valuable that more thieves are sawing off this device from peoples cars.
According to police officials in the county, converter thefts skyrocketed and increased 423% in the last year.
An issue Senator Brian W. Jones is not taking lightly and hopes to crackdown with his new bill.
If you would like to see the full bill, click here.
“It’s difficult for the police to even prove that a converter has been stolen. Even if it has physical evidence for the way it has been cut off it is very hard,” said Senator Jones.
Jones also adds that he is working with the Chula Vista Police Department to get this bill passed.
Once it's passed the bill would target catalytic converter theft in three different ways.
The first one would be that dealers would be required to permanently mark the vehicle identification number or vin on the catalytic converter of any car.
“All the new cars and used cars being sold will be retrofitted,” said Jones.
Metal recyclers would also only be allowed to buy catalytic converters that have a vin number that has never been tampered with making it difficult for criminals to steal and sell the device.
Senator Jones said, “We will also be raising the penalties and fines for criminals who continue to steal catalytic converters statewide.”
At Barrio Auto Shop, Rafael Angel Ortiz has worked at this muffler shop for years. He knows how easy someone can steal a catalytic converter—often done in less than two minutes.
“Those U-Haul trucks that you see, people can just get right under them and cut them off with an electric saw,” said Ortiz.
He also adds that the situation has gotten so bad, they have had to install cameras because of thieves attempting to steal catalytic converters.
“You even have YouTube videos of how you can easily cut them off, that’s how ridiculous its gotten,” said Ortiz.
However, it doesn't stop there, locals have also had to come to his shop in desperate need of a replacement in the past year because of the same issue.
While getting this device stolen is just one problem, the cost for a replacement is even worse.
“It could cost up to a thousand dollars to replace it,” said Ortiz.
While car owners face thousands of dollars in repairs, thieves face few risks in getting caught. Which is why Senator Jones’ bill is much more impactful.
His bill is sponsored by the Chula Vista police department and is currently in the senate committee on rules awaiting assignment to a policy committee for hearing.
While the bill has yet to be approved, muffler shops advise that you can also protect your car from thieves and avoid them from costing you thousands of dollars by adding a protection shield.
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