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Police see uptick in catalytic converter thefts

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT
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GOUVERNEUR, New York (WWNY) - Thieves are reaching up under cars and making off with catalytic converters, which contain rare metals. And they’re being stolen at rates never seen before.

Catalytic converters are tucked up near the engine, but thieves know right where to find them. And lately, thieves have been on a spree.

“Since January 2021, we’ve had six reported thefts of catalytic converters,” said Governeur Police Chief Laurina Greenhill.

Previously, catalytic converter thefts were rare in Gouverneur. It’s the same story in communities across the nation. Statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau show a more than ten-fold increase in just three years. It can be days before people even realize they’ve been victimized.

“So, that puts us behind the eight ball when you’re trying to investigate these types of crimes,” said St. Lawrence County Undersheriff Sean O’Brien.

The converters are an essential piece of the vehicle’s pollution control. They contain rare metals – some of which have skyrocketed in price recently. In Gouverneur, there has been a pattern to the thefts.

“All of them are vehicles that have a higher ground clearance, which would make it easier for the thief to access the undercarriage of the vehicle,” said Greenhill.

“This crime can get somewhat sophisticated. Locally, some larger public and commercial fleets have been hit, resulting in a larger haul for the thieves.

The converters are sold to scrapyards out of the area – sometimes by middlemen. Police have some advice on how to deter thieves.

“If you can park inside, park inside. And if not, keep your vehicles in a well-lighted area,” said Greenhill.

“It’s nice to have a camera,” said O’Brien. “That’s your best proactive measure is to have a camera. At least we’ll have a suspect, maybe we’ll have a vehicle, and put those people in this place (pointing to jail behind him).”

In New York and other states, the National Insurance Crime Bureau is pushing for legislation to make it harder to sell stolen catalytic converters.

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