Law enforcement officers say criminals are stealing catalytic converters from vehicles in record numbers.
The Flagler County Humane Society may not seem like an obvious choice for criminals to hit, but it was among several businesses in the area that recently had a catalytic converter stolen from a vehicle.
“I knew what one was, but I didn’t realize that stealing them was a thing,” director Amy Carotenuto said.
It’s happening all over Central Florida and all across the country.
The thefts are happening so often, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office set up a sting on Facebook Marketplace recently and arrested five people who wanted to purchase the converters on the black market, then ship them out of state for a profit, according to the sheriff’s department.
During the sting, detectives seized cash and dozens of catalytic converters.
It’s also happening in Longwood, according to Sgt. Derek Chenoweth.
“In recent months there has been an uptick,” Chenoweth said.
And in the city of Orlando, according to Sgt. Ann Mislange.
“Even from just the last six months, the case load has probably quadrupled,” Mislange said.
“We’ve seen an increase citywide, especially in our industrial areas with catalytic converter thefts,” Mislange said.
A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device underneath your vehicle that reduces toxic gases.
Crooks slide under the vehicle and saw it off, according to law enforcement.
The converters contain three precious metals: platinum, palladium and rhodium.
They all have monetary value, but palladium and rhodium are considerably more expensive than gold and have been for a while, so the converters can be sold and melted down for the metals.
“It depends on where they’re selling it,” Mislange said. “If they’re just using social media to sell it, or if they’re actually selling it to a scrapyard, but it can be anywhere from $50 to $300, per catalytic converter,” Mislange said.
Not a bad hustle for something that can be sawed off in a flash, according to Chenoweth.
“A catalytic converter can be removed from a vehicle in a matter of seconds less than 15 seconds,” Chenoweth said.
Tim McMillon is with M&K Used Auto Parts in Orange City.
“I mean, it takes away from us recyclers that are trying to do the right thing in the industry and recycle the product and get it back out to the rest of the world,” McMillon said.
Most of the thefts are happening in industrial areas, according to law enforcement.
The theory behind why it happens there is because crooks can potentially hit a business that is closed and has several trucks in one place.
It can happen in residential areas too, according to McMillon.
“If you can park your car in the garage, park in the garage,” he said.
There are also devices on the market you can use to secure your catalytic converter and make it more difficult to steal.
They range in price from $8 to about $200.
If your catalytic converter is stolen, your insurance should cover replacing it and repair any damage caused by a thief, if you have comprehensive coverage on your policy.