Monday, March 3, 2008

Two Quick Cuts = Thousands of Dollars

By Eric Willard

There is a new target that thieves are snatching up. Police reports that catalytic converters have been stolen all across Athens County in the past few months.

Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle's exhaust system. They are targeted because the converters have traces of platinum in them.

The thieves sell the part to scrap metal dealers for a quick buck. This is the same thing that was happening around the area with copper wiring over the last couple of months.

The Process
The reason thieves have been stealing catalytic converters is because of the simplicity and speed of the theft. The process takes just an electric saw and a couple of minutes.

According to Gregory Stonerock, executive manager of Taylor Motors and Taylor Honda car dealerships, thieves just have to "make two cuts," and the converter is out of the car.

Taylor Motors' Gregory Stonerock shows what thieves do

Taylor Motors on Columbus Road has had six converters stolen from their lot. The company caught the thieves on security cameras, but did not have enough video evidence to convict anyone.

According to Stonerock, most of the cars targeted are SUVs because it is easier to get under the vehicle and cut the converter out. Since the converters are not heavy and simple to take out, thieves can take a number of converters in a single night

The Transaction
Once the converters have been cut, the thieves then go sell them. The most common place to sell them is a scrap metal dealer. Because the converters have traces of platinum and other precious metals in it, the scrap metal dealers will melt the converter down to get to the precious metals.

The thieves can get anywhere from $50-$100 for each converter. If a thief takes ten converters in one night, it is a pretty good payday. But the cost to the vehicle owner is much higher. Converters can cost $1000-$2000 to replace in cars that have had them stolen.

Representative Jimmy Stewart had his catalytic converter stolen last November. It was stolen from the parking lot of an auto shop.

"It cost me over 1000 dollars to fix, just so a thief can get 50 or 60 bucks quick. It is just wrong," said Stewart.

Rep. Jimmy Stewart talks about having his converter stolen

The Solution
There are multiple solutions to the theft of catalytic converters problem in Athens.
One solution is what happened in Jimmy Stewart's case. His thieves were caught by a vigilant police officer. Stewart's thieves were part of a theft ring that was doing this all across town. Since the arrests, the number of catalytic converter thefts have dropped to almost zero.

The other solution is a proposed bill that is in the state senate right now. The bill will force scrap dealers to document every transaction made, and that inforamtion would be open to police investigation. It will also include the requirement of a picture ID for any transaction made.

Rep. Jimmy Stewart on the scrap metal bill

Theft Prevention
- Make sure your car is parked in a safe and a well-lighted area.
- Try to park your car in a garage overnight, if possible.
- Some car alarms have additional sensors that can be put on the catalytic converter, to be set off if it is trying to be stolen.
- Most auto repair shops can weld the nuts and bolts, so the converter is harder to take out.
- Engrave your driver's license number (but nothing else) on the converter, so if it is stolen, it can be traced and used to help prosecute the thief.

Source: Torrance California Police

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