HONOLULU (KHON2) — It was a crime that plagued car owners for nearly three years: catalytic converter theft. But, according to the Honolulu Police Department, so far this year, cases have gone way down all thanks to a law that kicked in, in January.

“I thought the law that we passed last year would work. I had no idea it would work that effectively,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads (D) who supported the bill cracking down on the sale of catalytic converters.

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According to HPD, the number of catalytic converter thefts drastically declined this year.

Since January, there were 34 cases compared to 569 for the same time last year.

Capt. Parker Bode, HPD Criminal Investigation Division said it’s all thanks to new legislation

“This year, a new law went into effect that requires the seller to provide a slew of information,” Bode explained. “So, they have to present identification. They have to present and give a sworn declaration that the item was not stolen.”

And, that’s the just the start of what’s required.

The buyer also has to keep those records for three years, and police can follow up if it looks like a purchaser is trying to skirt the requirements.

Catalytic converter theft became a felony last year, but Bode said that barely made a dent in the problem.

Thieves were targeting the most valuable part of the catalytic converter, kind of shaped like a honeycomb filled with precious metals like palladium, platinum and rhodium.

With a resale value between $25 to $300 a piece according to Carfax, and how easy it was to take the part, it was very enticing for thieves.

“The speed at which to steal the catalytic converter theft makes it difficult to catch the person,” Bode said. “So, it does lead to frustration by our patrol officers.”

Juan Valdez, a technician at Sumida’s Auto Repair, said thieves would slide under the car, cut the front, take out the important part and leave everything else. He said it could be done in just a matter of minutes.

But, Valdez said it would take a lot longer for the car owner to fix; and it would cost them a pretty penny to replace.

“On average I can see them go anywhere from maybe like $700 and up,” Valdez said. “I’ve seen them go as high as $1,700.”

KHON: “To replace?”

“Just the part,” Valdez explained.

According to Valdez their shop has noticed a big dip in calls for replacements, but he said they do still come in sporadically.

For Rhoads, it’s satisfying to know the new law made an impact so quickly.

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“That’s one of the best parts of the job,” Rhoads said. “When you have a problem that you’re trying to fix and you manage to fix it.”