HONOLULU (KHON2) — Catalytic converter thefts are a big problem in Hawaii. Recently, seven converters were stolen from City vehicles at Kapolei Hale.

KHON2 spoke to experts about what you can do to keep it from happening to you.

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A catalytic converter removes the toxic gases from the exhaust emission, and thieves steal it for the precious metals inside.

“The thieves know already which ones are more valuable, but a converter can be worth anywhere from $125 to $500,” said Franklin Young, owner of K&Y Auto Service.

Young also says there’s a backlog for catalytic converters, as the priority goes to supplying new cars.

“If you call the aftermarket, all the part stores, nobody has one and even the dealers have backlog,” said Young.

Sgt. Chris Kim of the Honolulu CrimeStoppers says stealing a converter takes only a matter of minutes. Thieves tend to work in pairs or groups, with one acting as a lookout. He says thieves may sell the stolen device to a metal recycler or third party vendor.

“And sometimes we’re hearing stories of people actually stealing catalytic converters and then selling it to people who’ve also been victimized when they had a catalytic converter stolen,” said Sgt. Kim.

For one recycling company, Schnitzer Steel says, “In Hawaii, Schnitzer Steel’s policies, procedures, and controls mandate that catalytic converters can only be purchased from a licensed commercial business. A seller must provide specific seller identification information. All payments for the purchase of catalytic converters must be made by check.”

Rep. Jackson Sayama says lawmakers were working on a measure earlier this year that would’ve increased penalties and place additional safeguards to prevent the sale of stolen catalytic converters. He believes it died because with so many proposals addressing the pandemic, the Senate had to prioritize. Until then, Sgt. Kim suggests people to invest in an alarm system or another deterrent.

“There are actually different types of coverings or cages that can be installed to protect that area,” said Sgt. Kim. “Honestly, our theory is something is better than nothing, right?”

Other steps you can take include parking in well-lit and traveled areas and checking your vehicle periodically.