Send Ben: Expensive metal worth more than gold is fueling Catalytic Converters thefts in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax investigates an increase in catalytic converter thefts in Jacksonville. Charles Hall inherited a 2005 Hyundai Elantra from his mother who died last year from cancer. He promised to take care of it, but the catalytic converter — which reduces air pollution — was stolen.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office tells Action News Jax’s Ben Becker it doesn’t keep specific records of catalytic converter thefts, but that there has been an increase recently in our area. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, thefts increased across the country from 1,298 in 2018 to 14,433 in 2020.

JSO says Hall’s car was broken into at Wise’s Automotive on Sunbeam Road.

“You want your money back?,” Becker asked Hall’s wife Tamiko, who paid for the repair. “Yeah I want my money back, all of it,” said Hall. “I think it was $272. I want it all back” Becker went to Wise’s Automotive to get some answers.

“I’m not responsible for theft, someone else’s theft,” says shop owner Barry Wise. According to the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act, he’s right. There is nothing that says a shop owner is liable for anything that happens to your car while it is in their possession.

“That’s why it’s important to have an understanding with someone doing service for you, doing repairs,” says Action News Jax’s Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson, who is a former FBI agent and has decades of law enforcement experience. “What they are responsible for, what you are responsible for.”

So why are catalytic converter thefts on the rise? It’s because they contain valuable metals like rhodium, which was worth about $600 per ounce five years ago. Today, it’s skyrocketed to approximately $28,000 per ounce — 17 times the price of gold — because the element is in short supply, while global demand is rising for emission control in cars. “What made you reach out to me?”, Becker asked Tamiko Hall. “I reached out to you because see it on the news and you always get answers.” This time, the answer may come from Wise.   “You’re not responsible?” Becker asked Wise again. “No. If she wants to prove me different, she can take me to court.” The Hall’s were happy with their overall repair, just not having to pay for the catalytic converter.

Experts say one solution to protect your catalytic converter is to install an anti-theft shield, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

In addition, make sure to park in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras.

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