SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. - Over a hundred catalytic converters were recovered during a multi-agency operation in the Inland Empire.
The operation, conducted throughout Chino Hills, Chino, Upland, Montclair, Ontario, Fontana, and other parts of San Bernardino County, led to the arrest of 28 people and the recovery of 112 stolen catalytic converters.
The sheriff's department says their officers conducted inspections at automotive repair shops and recycling facilities, inspecting each location for stolen catalytic converters. In total, 64 businesses were inspected.
"The purpose of the operation was to combat the unlawful trafficking of stolen catalytic converters. Many stolen catalytic converters are purchased by automotive repair shops and recycling facilities," the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
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Thefts of catalytic converters have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A catalytic converter is a device that uses precious metals such as rhodium, palladium and platinum to turn an engine's environmentally hazardous exhaust into less harmful gases.
The rise in theft is due to the rise in value of their precious metals. In March of 2022, rhodium was valued at $17,400 per ounce, while palladium was valued at $2,720 per ounce and platinum was valued at about $1,072 per ounce, according to KITCO.com.
Thieves typically target larger, high-clearance vehicles due to the ease of getting underneath them and removing the catalytic converter in a matter of seconds. In addition, hybrid vehicles like the Prius offer cleaner and more valuable catalytic converters. Recycling facilities will typically pay thieves $50 to $250 per catalytic converter, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.