BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Local leaders are taking new steps to curb crime in Bakersfield, as two city council members gear up up to present a plan to improve public safety. Bakersfield City Council Members Eric Arias and Chris Parlier want to make the city safer by hitting the brakes on catalytic converter theft and adjusting local 9-1-1 dispatches.

Bakersfield Ward One Councilman Eric Arias and Ward 7 Councilman Chris Parlier say enough is enough when it comes to crime in Bakersfield. The pair crafted an ordinance to bolster public safety, making it a misdemeanor crime to possess detached catalytic converters without the documents to prove they belong to you.

“With current laws and regulations, they actually have to catch them in the act,” said Ward One Bakersfield City Councilman Eric Arias. “What this bill would do if passed, is enable them to hold accountable individuals who have catalytic converters without the proper documentation.”

This comes as catalytic converter thefts soar to record highs. Bakersfield Police say thieves nabbed more than 2,200 catalytic converters within the city of Bakersfield last year. That’s up from 561 in 2020, and 179 in 2019.

“There are some things you can do structurally, welding, to help prevent it and slow it down,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry. “In the last week or two we’ve seized over 100. But it is something that’s also significantly impacting our community.”

Arias and Parlier also want to add two mental health experts to BPD’s 911 dispatch center, joining the behavioral health clinician the city added last year. Arias says these dispatchers can take the load off police officers.

“Sixty percent of those calls that have been diverted to that individual, they’ve been able to solve by sending someone from the med team, someone from behavioral health, or even just talking to them on the phone,” said Arias.

The new public safety proposal would also boost pay for city fire and police dispatchers, to match the salaries of their counterparts working for the county.

“Right now with the starting pay of a city dispatcher, it’s below that of what Target or Amazon offer an entry level employee,” said Ward Seven Bakersfield City Councilman Chris Parlier. “We’re losing people left and right to very menial jobs that pay more, or the county.”

Arias and Parlier plan to present their plans at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.