Catalytic converter thefts rose more than 800% between 2018 and 2019 in Wichita

Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – More than 800%, that is the increase in thefts of catalytic converters between 2018 and 2019.

According to police, 21 were stolen in 2018 and that number rose to 201 in 2019.

“We started one of my trucks, and it was very loud,” says Jeff Laing, Countryside Lawn and Tree Care owner

Laing is looking through days of security camera video trying to figure out who stole seven of his.

“Yeah, I got hit pretty good,” he says.

The part is under a vehicle that prevents toxins from getting into the air. It is a valuable piece of equipment because of the different metals it is made of.

“Rhodium closed today at $6,000 an ounce. A year ago it closed at $2,100 an ounce. That is three times what it was just a year ago,” says Donald Sandlian, Sandlian Iron & Metal Auto Salvage owner.

He knows, maybe better than many, why people like Laing and his lawn care business are starting to see their catalytic converters disappear.

“That is why they call them precious metals,” Sandlian says.

Sandlian won’t buy them or anything part from the public.

“I would say anybody carrying a converter into any place is doing it illegally,” he says.

The problem for people like Laing and his business is that Sandlian doesn’t believe that number is going to drop anytime soon.

“How can they prove it?” says Sandlian.

That leaves Laing and his crew replacing the part and fixing the damage.

“We are looking at $10,000 to $15,000,” says Laing.

Police say they are aware of the rise and are working to address the issue and identify the people involved in the thefts.

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