RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – They're a hot commodity and thieves are stealing them from right under your cars. Crooks have gotten away with catalytic converters three times in less than a week in Richmond. The car parts were swiped from two vehicles in the 2600 block of West Cary Street and most recently, from a minivan at Byrd Park.
Vehicles like SUV's and pickup trucks are the most vulnerable because there is more room underneath for thieves to access the catalytic converters that could cost you more than $1000 to replace.
Alvin Campbell's mother's mini-van is now missing an integral part of its exhaust system. Campbell said his mom heard a bizarre noise when she turned on her car to return to their Byrd Park home Tuesday.
"She told me someone stole a part of her car and I thought it was crazy," he told NBC12.
It may be crazy, but it's not uncommon. NBC12 Automotive Expert Emmerson Miles explained the catalytic converter stolen from that mini-van helps take out the toxins from car exhaust. Thieves take apart the device to sell the valuable platinum inside.
In all of 2009, Richmond Police investigated the thefts of five catalytic converters. We've already surpassed that number in just the first six months of this year with six stolen.
If your car is hit, you might have to pay for more than just a replacement.
"A thief is not concerned in how he takes it off," said Miles. "It's more in the process of trying to get it off as fast as he can and get away with it."
A thief uses a tool like a reciprocating saw that can easily and quickly cut through the pipes of your car, thus damaging the entire exhaust system. Broken windows won't be the signature of this theft. Just like Campbell's mother, you'll know you're a victim the second you turn on your engine.
'The catalytic converter is mounted before the muffler so it's an open exhaust," Miles said. "So it's going to sound like a race car."
There is no way to secure these devices, which means no real way to stop your car from being targeted. If you see anything suspicious though, police want you to call Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.