Thursday, January 26, 2012

They Took Your What?

It’s out of sight and out of mind- until you start up your vehicle, that is. You may not even know what it’s called, but that small muffler-looking object under your vehicle is a catalytic converter. To you, it helps keep your vehicle “sounding right”, but to a thief, it means a fast buck.

A catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system of your vehicle. Thieves know that catalytic converters contain the precious metal platinum, which can be sold for quick cash.

Unfortunately, catalytic converter thefts are documented nationwide. Recently, we’ve seen an increase in Overland Park. In 2011, there were 71 reported incidents, some of which were multiple thefts. So far this year, we’ve taken 12 reports.

This is a metro-wide problem and involves many suspects. I will share with you a couple of pictures of a suspect vehicle to be on the lookout for. The vehicle is a gray, newer--model Chevy Trailblazer, with a sunroof and trailer hitch. Typically, the driver backs into a spot near the victim’s vehicle. The passenger then gets out and removes the catalytic converter.

I asked my Criminal Analysis Unit to do some research on how much thieves are getting for stolen Catalytic converters, and how much the victim has to pay to replace it. As you can see below, the numbers are pretty significant on the part of the victim.

Recycling Quotes on Catalytic Converters:
Small = $45
Medium = $50
Large = $70
Ford = $32
GM = $70-$100
Camry $65
Small Foreign = $85
Medium Foreign = $100
Large Foreign = $120

*Dealer Prices to Replace Stolen Catalytic Converters
1996 Saturn = $821.04
2003 Pontiac Grand Am CC = $773.54
2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo = $866.40
2004 Chevrolet Cavalier = $652.00

*these are all from recent catalytic converters thefts in Overland Park

A thief can remove a catalytic converter from under a vehicle in as little as two minutes. Recently, the most commonly hit vehicles are Chevy Cavaliers, Pontiac Grand Prix’s, Oldsmobile Aleros, and Pontiac Sunfires.

There are some things you can do to reduce the possibility of being a victim of thefts in general. The first preventive thing is to park in well-lighted areas, or close to the front entrance to buildings. Also, be aware of any suspicious vehicles or people hanging out in parking lots.