Updated Mon, Apr 16, 2012 3:57 pm
A recent rise in the theft of a vital car part has some local victims paying more than $1,000 for replacements.
Catalytic converters, which convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they leave a car's exhaust system, are increasingly being stolen from the bottom of parked cars.
Last week, the Athens Police Department said there were at least three reports of catalytic converter thefts in the Athens area. In one of the reports, multiple converters were reported stolen from Taylor Dealerships on Columbus Road.
On Wednesday, a witness contacted the police department to report that he had observed a male cut a catalytic converter off a gray Honda CRV that was parked in a private parking lot on Elliot Street. The witness provided the police department with a description of the individual, but police say they have not identified the individual or made an arrest.
"We are exploring all possible options, but it's a reasonable assumption that the same person could be involved with all of the reports. [They're] all in the same basic area, all in the same period of time and it's all the same thing that they're stealing," said Ralph Harvey, captain at the Athens Police Department.
Harvey said he believes the increase in catalytic converter thefts coincides with the price of medal, as stolen parts can be sold for scrap.
"When the price of that metal is up, meaning that the junk yards and salvage yards are paying more for the given materials that are in them, then the thefts go up," Harvey said. "Sometimes [the thefts happen] once a year. Sometimes we have a rash of them for several years. We increase our patrols, citizens will get more vigilant and [the thieves] will move to another area."
While the catalytic converter isn't the easiest to move around, the platinum inside could mean a small profit for those who steal one out of a vehicle.
But the profit is very small compared to what it costs the theft victims to repair the damage.
Stephen Shockley, a sales manager at Taylor Dealerships, said the converter could cost more than $1,000 to replace.
"The catalytic converter, to replace it, it depends on the vehicle but typically is 1200 bucks," he said. "Whether it's a customer's car or our car it's $1,200. Having to spend money on something that's stolen when somebody takes something that doesn't belong to them is just not right and it shouldn't happen."
Harvey said there is little a person can do to prevent catalytic converter thefts from happening, other than putting their car in a garage or parking in a well-lit area.
"Realistically, it takes some effort to do this. They'll get underneath it and cut the darn thing," he said.
Harvey recommends reporting any suspicious behavior to the local police department as soon as it occurs.