CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A catalytic converter is a component of all vehicle exhaust systems today.

“In January, we had about 25 vehicles vandalized with the exhaust systems damaged and the catalytic converters stolen. It totaled about $75,000 worth of damage,” Richard Stephens, Owner of Stephens Auto Center said.

There’s several rare earth minerals inside converters like platinum, radium, and rhodium – worth thousands of dollars.

“It’s pretty quick with a battery operated reciprocating saw. They can roll up under the car, make two cuts, one at each end of the pipe and take the catalytic converter out and be gone in a matter of a couple of minutes,” Stephens said.

The converter takes pollutants out of the exhaust to make air cleaner. It’s located underneath a vehicle near the muffler and tailpipe.

“We did file an insurance claim. It still cost us a good bit of money because of deductibles and now our insurance premiums are higher, but we also hired security guards,” Stephens said.

Theft happens to both car dealerships and vehicles everywhere. If your catalytic converter was stolen you’ll know when you turn your car on because it will make a loud and distinct sound.

The West Virginia Auto Dealers Association passed Senate Bill 626, recently updating catalytic converter purchases in the state. It requires a scrap metal dealer to pay by check and hold the purchase for 14 days.

“Now it makes it a misdemeanor. There’s a fine attached to it. First offense is $1,000, second offense is $2,000, and it increases all the way up to your third offense. Of course the check is a huge crucial part because these individuals, if it’s drug related are looking for cash in hand,” Jared Wyrid, President of West Virginia Auto Dealers Association said.

Even with the revised bill, Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Jonathan Coleman says, he receives a few calls every week about stolen converters.

“If you know where your catalytic converter is located, I recommend that you put your license plate, if you can scrape your license plate number on the converter somewhere to identify it. That way if law enforcement starts looking for it, they can identify it by your license plate number,” said Detective Coleman.