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Catalytic converter thefts on the rise

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Posted at 6:20 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 22:42:29-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Last Thursday, Cassandra Coleman turned on her vehicle to drive to work and was met with a jarring sound.

“My car sounded like beyond a motorcycle, it was that loud. It was horrible,” Coleman said.

She called her dealership to tell them about the problem and the man who answered told her it sounded like the catalytic converter was missing.

As it turned out, the part had been taken right off her car sometime in the night. Coleman was shocked. Her parking spot is close to the building and faces several windows. The lot is also well lit.

“It really made me feel really sad because it’s like people go to work every day and they work hard for what they have and then to come out on the way to work and someone has taken something from you. It’s a horrible feeling,” she said.

Coleman had the vehicle towed to her dealership but was told the converter she needed was on back order and would take four to six months or longer to come in.

She then towed it to another shop where she was told it would be at least a month for the part to come in, maybe longer. Finally, Coleman brought it to Ralph’s Muffler and Brake in Indianapolis.

“The hard part, is finding the part!” Coleman exclaimed.

Josh Webster who is a mechanic at Ralph’s, explained Coleman is one of many customers he’s had in the last few months coming in with the same problem.

“We get people every day. Sometimes five, 10 different people that have been robbed. It’s way out of hand,” he said.

Webster said he even had clients come in who had been robbed while they were in church, only to come out to a noisy vehicle missing its converter.

“They’re stealing their catalytic converters and sometimes O2 sensors. They cut whatever is convenient and quick to get out of there,” Webster said.

Lucky for Coleman, Webster received her converter on Tuesday and in the process of installing it. He said her type of vehicle, a Mitsubishi Outlander, seems to be a top favorite for converter thieves.

“They like the Mitsubishi Outlander for some reason. I’ve seen a lot of them. But they’ll hit anything that’s higher up is what I’ve been seeing. SUV’s, trucks,” Webster said.

Webster explained the part is worth money at scrap yards. Depending on scrap prices, he said they could go for $20 to a couple of hundred dollars.

The metal inside of the converter is valuable and the prices of the part have recently increased.

“In the last six to eight months they’ve almost tripled. That’s probably why they are stealing them is because they are getting more money out of them now,” he said.

Coleman’s new converter cost $748.00 plus tax. She filed an insurance claim and her agent told her she was the 30th claim for a stolen converter in just the last two weeks.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau there were just over 100 converter thefts per month on average in 2018. In 2020, there was an average of just over 1,200 a month with a steady climb throughout the year. The highest amount was reported in December with more than 2,300 thefts reported.

Coleman said she's concerned that when she gets her vehicle back, something like this may happen again.

“That is what really worries me is when I do get my vehicle fixed and brought back home what is going to stop someone from coming and taking that again. I won’t be able to sleep because I’ll be looking out the window,” she said.

Webster said some people have installed a cage around their converter to prevent the theft, but he’s had clients with those cages that have had the part stolen anyway.

“If the thief wants it they’re going to take it,” Webster said.

Insurance companies suggest you have your car’s VIN number engraved on your catalytic converter to help track it if it’s stolen.

Police suggest to try to park your vehicle in well lit areas away from trees and bushes and park it in a garage if you can.