Jacksonville police see an increase in thieves stealing expensive car parts

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Jacksonville police are seeing an increase in thefts of catalytic converters. Scam artists cut the expensive car part out from under a vehicle and sell it as scrap, earning pennies on the dollar.

“I started my car and it sounded like NASCAR,” said 22-year-old Jacksonville resident Abrien Nelson. “It sounded like an explosion coming out of the engine.”

He knew something was wrong when he got into his Toyota Sequoia SUV one morning. The mechanics told him that the two catalytic converters in his SUV had been stolen.

“I didn’t even know it was something that could happen in my vehicle,” Nelson said. “I didn’t even know it was something that could be easily pulled off.”

Abrien Nelson said mechanics told him the two catalytic converters in his SUV were stolen. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.)

He lives in a gated apartment complex near Monument Road, but that door was broken down at the time. Now he has to deal with a big bill – not fun for a recent college graduate. While insurance sometimes covers the cost, catalytic converter replacement can cost up to $1,500 per unit on a standard vehicle.

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“It’s very frustrating,” he added.

A catalytic converter takes harmful emissions from an engine and turns them into safer gases, like steam. It is made up of precious metals and these are incredibly expensive right now.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau:

  • Rhodium: $20,000 per ounce

  • Palladium: $2,938 per ounce

  • Platinum: $1,128 per ounce

The News4JAX I-TEAM has followed the trends, discovering gangs of thieves are using saws to cut out the parts in minutes.

RELATED: In 1 minute, thieves can grab that expensive part of your car or truck

“It’s more of a specialty felony if you will,” Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer Christian Hancock said. “We don’t know what they are doing with them, we can’t know where they are going, but obviously a lot of things are stolen and they end up leaving.”

He thinks many criminals sell the parts out of state because Florida has strict junkyard laws.

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JSO records show that police are seeing an increase in reports:

  • From mid-April to mid-July 2021, there were 135 incidents of catalytic converter thefts.

  • During this same period in 2022, there were 166.

  • Over the past year, detectives assigned to these cases have made more than 70 arrests.

Officers need help reporting suspicious activity.

“It makes noise,” Hancock noted. “This is not a quiet crime. When they climb down there with the saws and start cutting through the metal, you can hear it.

To protect your vehicle:

  • Park in a garage or other well-lit area

  • Have cameras nearby

  • And you can even have someone engrave a VIN or serial number on the parts, making them harder to sell.

To combat catalytic converter theft nationwide, the United States House has a bipartisan bill called the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act. If the bill becomes law, it will require the VIN to be stamped on the converter for new vehicles so law enforcement can link stolen parts to vehicles and create a grant program to pay for car stamping existing. The bill also sets out penalties for theft and trafficking of stolen coins and details requirements for people to document the buying and selling of coins.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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