RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Earlier this month, Kaitlyn Conner’s partner went outside to start their Toyota Prius before work. Except, the car did not sound normal.

“It was just this loud roaring noise,” Conner said.

After colleagues suggested the problem may be a missing — perhaps stolen — catalytic converter, Conner went and inspected.

“I crawled under the car and there were wires hanging down, there were nuts on the ground, and it was missing,” she said.

The apparent theft set the family back more than $1,000.

And they’re far from alone.

After CBS 17 reported on the crime being on the rise in some Triangle communities in 2021, the region has seen a number of thefts of the expensive metal car part in recent days.

Just recently, a thief or thieves made off with the catalytic converters on three vehicles belonging to two businesses in a plaza near Eubanks Road and Millhouse Road in Orange County, not far from Chapel Hill.

And earlier this week, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office said a man died after a car fell on him while he attempted to steal the part off of a disabled car on the side of the road in Zebulon.

Alicia Stemper, public information officer with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, hesitated to say the crime has spiked of late in the area, but said it tends to be cyclical and is on the upswing right now.

“It’s kind of a spiral,” she said. “They just come in spurts.”

Stemper said, while the quick crime can be difficult to prevent, the safest bet for car owners is to park in a secure area, such as a garage, if possible.

“If you’ve got a garage, better call to put your very expensive car in your garage rather than the junk you know you really should be throwing away,” Stemper said.

The next best bet, she said, is to park in a well-lit area, right in between other cars, which provides less room for thieves to go to work.

As of last month, a new law in North Carolina aims to crack down on the problem. The law, which took effect Dec. 1, requires — among other things — metal recyclers to keep an electronic record of sellers of the catalytic converter.

However, the new law was not enough to protect Conner and her family’s car.

“It’s not a nice thing to do,” she said.