HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — After months of catalytic converters being ripped from underneath vehicles, local business owners are asking “will it ever stop?”
In Hampton Roads, more than 65 of the pricey auto parts have been reported stolen in about four months, and three happened just this week. Thieves’ latest target was in Suffolk Thursday evening.
Local business owners are calling the thefts an epidemic, as police are still on the hunt for the people responsible. Kevin Staples, service manager at Colonial Ford Trucks of Tidewater, said he has never seen so many catalytic converter thefts in a four-month span.
“Was I shocked that the first one happened? Yes,” Staples said. “Now, when the phone calls come in, I’m not shocked at all, because it’s happening all over Tidewater.”
Reports have been taken in Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Suffolk.
“They’re cutting it roughly about six foot long, stretching from pretty much the rear axle all the way up to the front side of the transmission,” said Staples, who has fixed 25 catalytic converters inside his shop since September.
Colonial Trucks has been hit by thieves, too. They had six new converters stolen off trucks in their front lot. Staples said surveillance video caught the thieves in the act, but cameras did not pick up clear images.
“From the looks of everything, they’re coming in with a cordless saw and just cutting them off from end to end and carrying them out,” he said.
The thieves are after the precious metals inside the converters: gold, zinc, copper and platinum. The parts that cost thousands of dollars are being sold off for much less.
“On the scrap metal market, they bring anywhere from $150 to $250 to the person stealing them and selling them. To the end user that has the equipment to process them, they are probably getting between $750-$1,000,” Staples said
Diesel trucks are not the only target. Staples said gas engine catalytic converters are also being stripped from vehicles. Unfortunately, there is little drivers can do to protect their vehicles. Surveillance cameras can help police identify suspects.
If you have any information about the theft of catalytic converters, or any crime, you are asked to give police a call.