Police report numerous catalytic converter thefts

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | 6:59 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Catalytic converters, small, rounded parts on the exhaust system that decrease the amount of toxic emissions, are increasingly a target of thefts.

They can be removed in a few minutes using a hacksaw, Kyle Gorzik of Napa Auto Parts said.

Since June, 14 catalytic converters have been stolen from cars in large parking lots throughout Columbia, Public Information Officer Latisha Stroer said in an email.

Lynne Robertson of A1 Auto Recyclers said catalytic converters contain traces of palladium, platinum and rhodium.

"The presence of these precious metals give them a high resale value," she said.

Eight converters have been stolen from MU lots and one from Ellis Fischel Cancer Center between Sept. 5 and Monday, MU police reported Wednesday in a news brief.

Police said most of the thefts occurred during the day and mostly to Chevrolet Cavaliers, Pontiac Grand Ams and Pontiac Sunfires. The victims are believed to have left their vehicles parked for long periods of time.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made it mandatory in 1975 for every car to have a catalytic converter.

A car without a catalytic converter would have an extremely loud exhaust system because the muffler that is used to minimize noise would be affected. Catalytic converters are available from $70 up to $430, depending on the size and make of the vehicle, Gorzik said.

No suspect information was available from either police agency. The pilfering of catalytic converters is a difficult crime to uncover as the converters do not have serial numbers and therefore cannot be tracked, Stroer said.

Police have advised residents to park their vehicles in well-populated and well-lit areas, to close and lock garages and install conspicuous video surveillance cameras outside houses to deter converter thieves. Etching the car's VIN number on the converter is also advised.

Anyone with information on converter thefts are requested to call Detective Sam Easley at the Columbia Police Department at 884-3721 or Crime Stoppers at 875-8477.

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Robert Jackson September 14, 2011 | 10:10 p.m.

I first wondered why this is happening now...I thought that the price of precious metals is actually on a slight decline. Then after a quick look online I found out that most converters are worth at least $30 as scrap with some fetching over $150. I suppose those less-than-honest individuals are cashing in on this craze while they still can.

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