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Nassau County lawmakers take steps to deter catalytic converter thefts

Nassau County taking steps to stop catalytic converter thefts 02:12

WESTBURY, N.Y. -- It's a crime spiking across the nation -- catalytic converters stolen right off of cars, and it happens in seconds.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports, lawmakers in Nassau County took steps Wednesday to drive thieves away.

Steven Sarro, of American Muffler of Westbury, says the calls are flooding in.

"It's day after day after day it's been going on," he said.

Catalytic converter thefts are skyrocketing around the nation. The parts, needed to clean vehicles' exhaust, are valuable.

"They want what's inside the converter, that honeycomb briquette that actually has the precious metals inside," John Tirpin, of TNT Automotive in New Hyde Park, told CBS2 in December.

In Nassau County, there were 40 thefts reported this time last year. So far this year, there have been 348.

"Three hundred and forty-eight families have gotten up and tried to start their day taking their kids to school, and it's ruined because some guy is going to cut it out of the bottom of the car for $250," Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

Thieves may only get $250, but it costs victims thousands. The thefts are fueled by a shortage and demand for the metals, which can be sold on the black market.

"My mechanic this morning gave me a brochure from a black market guy, it's actually in black, and it's got a shopping list for thieves," Village of Upper Brookville Mayor Elliot Conway said.

Nassau lawmakers will soon make it harder for thieves to profit. A bill makes scrap metal purchasers require the year, make, model and VIN number from the car it came from and documentation from the car's owner.

"The scrap metal dealers will not be able to accept these catalytic converters unless there is authenticity as to where it came from, so it limits the market for where these thieves can sell these catalytic converters," said Richard Nicolello, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature.

Penalties include fines and jail time.

Police say taking away the incentive behind what's now an easy crime can reverse the trend.

"You prevent these things by causing a penalty," Ryder said.

Police say it takes 90 seconds for a thief to get under your car in the middle of the night and do the damage. Toyotas, Lexus and Hondas are most at risk.

Police advise car owners to pull into the driveway, install motion lights and lock up, warning thieves will steal cars just for the catalytic converter.

Nassau lawmakers say they will ask Suffolk and New York City officials to consider similar measures to deter the thefts to make it a regional approach.

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