PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Catalytic converter theft continues to be a growing trend nationwide.
A Lake Worth lawn care business owner recently lost thousands of dollars when his truck, trailer and catalytic converters, along with his lawn care equipment, were stolen.
"It pays the bill," Alex Gonzalez told WPTV.
For Gonzalez, the truck and trailer he uses for his business, Havana Lawn & Landscaping, are his livelihood.
"It's a cutthroat business. If you're not there on a certain day that you tell your customers [that] you're gonna be there, they look for someone else," he said.
So when his truck, trailer and all of his lawn care equipment were stolen last month, he panicked.
"They stole all my lawnmowers, all my two-cycle stuff, the weed eaters, hedgers, the blowers," Gonzalez said.
Police found his truck and trailer in Miami. However, all of his equipment was gone and the catalytic converters on the truck were missing.
It cost him $65,000 to replace everything.
"I basically lost everything, and then I'm back to square one now," Gonzalez said.
Catalytic converter thefts more than tripled nationwide between 2020 and 2021 with over 65,000 cases.
"When they sell them, they go anywhere from $75 to about $400-$500 on the market," Ron Katz, the owner of several Midas auto shops around South Florida, said.
Katz said at his West Palm Beach store that they've already serviced six vehicles with missing catalytic converters just this week.
They’re now installing metal cages around the converters to help keep the thieves away.
"They have precious metal in them, so they're worth some money on the black market," Katz said.
Katz said carrying out the crime is easy to do. Criminals take battery-powered saws and cut the converter right off the vehicle. It only takes 30 seconds, according to Katz.
"What they’re doing now is they're going after commercial vans because they sit higher," Katz said. "So it's a lot easier for them to get under and saw them off."
From under the car, to inside the store, criminals are targeting pretty much everything car-related right now, according to Joe Dipasquale, who works at Auto Zone's corporate office.
"They'll put their hands on anything they can turn around and flip," Dipasquale said. "Tools are one of the things that go really quickly because they’re expensive."
At Katz’s Midas store on Military Trail, they are now offering free etching for catalytic converters. A VIN number is etched onto the converter, often keeping away thieves who don't want to steal something that can be tracked.