CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. — The sound of metal grinding first caught Todd Tessmer’s attention at a Home Depot parking lot in Clackamas County.
“I’m like that’s interesting someone is fixing their vehicle in the parking lot?" said Tessmer, but once he realized what was actually happening, he pulled out his phone and shot a video. "I noticed somebody underneath a truck, he’s coming out from underneath the truck and he actually busted out a saw," explained Tessmer.
He said the man was trying to saw off a parked car's catalytic converter. A bold move, considering it was it was around 9 a.m. and the thief was parked right in front of the store.
"I was actually shocked that somebody was that brazen," said Tessmer.
Travis Decker, on the other hand, isn’t shocked. He’s the owner of Atomic Auto Repair shop in Portland and a catalytic converter theft victim. "Someone cut through the fence and stole the one off of my personal car which was at our shop and stole them off numerous customer vehicles," said Decker.
The expensive part of the exhaust system contains several precious metals that can sell for thousands by the ounce, which makes the stolen part valuable. Thieves around the country and the world have caught on, stealing catalytic converters and selling them for scrap.
Decker says catalytic converter shields can be installed as protection, with prices ranging from $200-$500. "None of these are a perfect solution, all we’re trying to do is deter the theft, make it less easy so it takes a little bit longer," he said. "The biggest thing people can do is make sure they have a low comprehensive insurance deductible so when this happens, if it does happen they don’t get hit with $1,000."
Gresham police took note of the theft in Clackamas County and said they tracked down the suspect in Gresham and have arrested him. Earlier this year, Oregon lawmakers passed a bill that ensures scrap metal businesses only buy or receive catalytic converters from commercial sellers, not thieves.
Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill, which will take effect in January 2022.