Spike in catalytic converter thefts prompts warning from Durham police

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham police say they’re seeing a spike in thefts of a valuable car part. Catalytic converters are small, tough to notice without climbing under the car, but profitable for crooks.

The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system of a car. It’s something many victims don’t even notice they’re missing.

“Not until you start it up and once you start it up it sounds like an old 57 Chevy with no mufflers or anything,” said Capt. Robert Gaddy with the Durham Police Department.

Durham police say 35 catalytic converters were reported stolen from January to July of last year. That number is up 86 percent since last year.

“Those guys will sell them for whatever they can get for them,” said Gaddy.

Gaddy said thieves can make big money in the black market selling those car parts that often contain precious metals. It’s not even visible crawling under a car, but Gaddy said a skilled crook can swipe the part in no time.

“With the right tools, less than a minute and that’s having the cutting knife,” said Gaddy. “You could have even some type of pliers or something just go in snap.”

Police say 23 of the 65 thefts this year happened in church parking lots. Most of the targets were church vans.

“They sit higher off the ground, and so if you think about somebody going in for something quick to grab, they can slide up under the van without any jacks or any assistance, any leverage, and it’s easily accessible,” Gaddy said.

Durham police suggest parking cars in a garage if possible. If not, aim for a well-lit area near a surveillance camera.

“There’s actually a device now, a catalytic converter protection device, that you install underneath your car it runs about $80-90, maybe $100 at most, that works well from what we’ve been told,” Gaddy said.

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