Why crooks may be targeting parts on your car – WCAX

Science & Technology

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) – People around our region are speaking out as more and more catalytic converters are stolen from cars. The thefts are happening across the country driven by a surge in the price of metal.
The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system. It can be cut out in minutes and sold as scrap metal for $100 to $2,000.
Thefts of catalytic converters are again on the rise. They contain platinum and other precious metals that have seen a surge in value.
“It’s not dangerous to you. It’s very dangerous to whoever is cutting them. We had a customer come in who had a gas leak and we found out it was from someone who tried to cut their converter off and cut the gas line,” said Lisa Lamb, who owns a Rutland auto body shop.
Lamb’s shop has been hit twice. She knows of about half a dozen other businesses on Woodstock Avenue in Rutland that have fallen victim, too.
“We actually realized it two months ago, but I think it’s been happening even prior to that, all over the country, not just here in Rutland, Vermont,” Lamb said.
Capt. John Grismore of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says Franklin County is experiencing more thefts lately.
“We, unfortunately, sadly, find that a lot of this is tied to drug use, as well,” Grismore said.
Grismore says some states are adding numbers to converters and painting them to better identify stolen parts. He has not heard of Vermont doing this.
But a big issue is how easy it is for criminals to sell metal to salvage yards.
“We need to put some pressure on these agencies that are taking them in,” Grismore said.
In Vermont, buyers require a photo ID, license plate number and description of the item being sold.
“That is the law,” Lamb said. “I don’t think people are following it.”
Israel Mac says 10 years ago, Mac Equipment and Steel stopped taking catalytic converters for scrap metal after finding the vast majority of them are stolen. He says people still call every day and show up in person asking to sell them.
“If somebody comes in who is in our database that we suspect, we’ll call the police. But it’s really awkward trying to call the police if you don’t know that it’s stolen,” Mac said.
It takes between two days and two weeks to get replacement parts and can cost $500 to $5,000 to repair the vehicle.
“It really is hard-working people and good people this is affecting and it’s costing them a lot of out-of-pocket money,” Lamb said.
She wants to see law enforcement do more.
Grismore says as the crime increases, he anticipates police will work together to crack down, but he is not aware of this happening yet.
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