By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami)  – Catalytic converter theft has been on the rise during the pandemic, as criminals are targeting cars and actually taking part of the exhaust system.

David Sommer’s security camera caught a truck pulling up next to his, then a man with a tool climbed underneath.

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“And then my security camera alerted me that someone was out front,” he said.

Sommer ran out on his balcony and the men quickly took off.

“I start screaming at these guys, you trying to steal my catalytic converter?” Sommer said.

Catalytic converters are valuable because of the rhodium and palladium inside.

Thieves can walk onto a driveway and saw one-off in a matter of minutes.

“Palladium is a very expensive metal. It’s more expensive than gold,” said Dr. Lawrence Wolf, a chemistry professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Prices for the precious metal have been on the rise for years and then spiked when war broke out in Ukraine because Russia is a major palladium producer.

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Authorities say criminals can get about $200 for one of the stolen devices, but victims have to pay $1,000-$3,000 for a replacement.

At a meat distribution center in Boston, 17 trucks were hit in one night.

“They’re brazen. They’re fast,” said Kevin Clougher, whose trucks were targeted by thieves three times in the past few months.

“We don’t know what it’s gonna take to stop them,” he said.

Clougher’s insurance paid for the replacement but not all policies cover it.

Car owners can pay a mechanic to engrave their VIN number on the converter.

That could deter a thief from taking it, or at least make the part traceable if they do.

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Several states are now considering legislation that would increase jail time for catalytic converter thefts and require scrap yards to document who sells them one. Team