Thieves target parked vehicles outside of multiple Durham non-profit agencies

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Thieves continue to target vehicles parked outside nonprofit agencies.

Threshold Clubhouse, a mental health recovery center in East Durham that serves about 100 people, is raising money to cover the cost of repairing vehicles and replacing stolen equipment. Donations to a GoFundMe page for Threshold topped $1,000 of the $4,000 goal as of Friday afternoon.

Executive director Elizabeth Barber said workers discovered a broken lock on the gate to the complex’s small storage and garage area on Saturday, April 20. The doors to the equipment shed were also open.

“Basically all of the tools for the grounds had been taken,” Barber said.

“We received a really generous donation six months ago, and they had given us a variety of equipment, particularly equipment that our members who have mobility issues can use. Weed-whackers, lawnmowers, and trimmers, so a considerable amount of equipment.”

Threshold helps people with severe mental illnesses with things like education and work development and for some of the 45 people who come daily to the center Gary Street, that includes assisting with maintaining the grounds.

The organization provides a place for people to go to receive assistance away from a mental hospital environment. There are activities at the center as well as field trips for a variety of activities.

A group planned to visit Duke Gardens the same day as the discovery of the break-in. Staff started the engine on one of the vans and the loud noise that followed was evidence that the vehicle’s catalytic converter was gone. One of the other three Threshold vehicles was also missing the same valuable and vital part.

Thieves took four catalytic converters from vehicles at the Durham Boys & Girls Club in March. Several were stolen from buses and vans at Raleigh’s Helping Hands Mission in October.

“That is pretty tragic and disappointing that agencies like ours, that are trying to serve the community, are facing extensive damages that will, of course, cost us,” Barber said.

“We really hope that whoever is doing this recognizes that they’re damaging their community partners and hope that they will not do that anymore, and of course face criminal charges when they’re caught.”

Threshold’s primary vehicle is back in service after an expensive repair. Barber estimates the cost of repairs and replacements will be about $4,000.

Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise for the past few years as thieves try to get precious metals from inside the automotive parts, such as rhodium, platinum, and gold. The device creates a chemical reaction which converts gases in the automotive exhaust into less harmful gases, which then pass through a muffler on their way out.

People scrap the metals for hundreds of dollars. Replacement repairs can cost from several hundred dollars to several thousand.

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