Police car

Police sirens.

{child_flags:editors_pick}{child_flags:top_story}{child_flags:featured}KPD probe thefts

from cars

{child_byline}Kim Dunlap

Kokomo Tribune{/child_byline}

It’s a crime that takes just a matter of moments to occur but sometimes thousands of dollars to fix, and it’s been creating quite a bit of havoc throughout the city in recent days.

Local police say they have investigated close to 30 incidents of theft of catalytic converters over the last 72 hours, occurring everywhere from outside restaurants and other local businesses to car dealerships and even a church.

“Thieves come up with ways to make and get money, and right now, this is the big thing across the country,” Kokomo Police Department Maj. Brian Seldon told the Tribune when asked about the uptick in this particular crime. “Daytime, nighttime, it doesn’t matter. Thieves know what they’re doing. They get in and get out, and you might not even see them.”

Catalytic converters are a part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that seemingly converts bad exhaust into good exhaust, but it’s what inside those pieces of equipment that potential thieves want the most, Seldon added.

“You have to have three precious metals to convert the bad fumes to good fumes, and those metals are platinum, palladium and rhodium,” he said. “Platinum can go for up to $1,000 an ounce, and palladium is sometimes up to three times more expensive. What you can get for rhodium is also very high. … So you add all those together, and you can get a good amount of money.”

And because catalytic converters can often be removed from a vehicle in less than a minute by using a tool like a reciprocating saw, these crimes are also hard to detect unless caught on surveillance footage or caught in the act, Seldon noted, though he did admit that parking in a garage or populated area whenever possible is one way to help deter the crime.

“You’ll know that your catalytic converter is gone if you start your car and it sounds like the muffler’s missing,” Seldon said. “It’ll make a loud noise. That’s how victims usually find out. But it’s hard to locate it (the catalytic converter) once it’s stolen because there’s no identification when a person who stole them goes to sell them to the scrapyards or places like that.

“There’s nothing identifying the catalytic converter to your vehicle,” Seldon added. “There’s no VIN number, so basically, any vehicle just sitting in a parking lot or on the street is susceptible.”

Of course, there are vehicles that are often targeted more than others, Seldon noted, such as those whose underneath sides are higher off the ground like trucks or vans.

Auto dealerships are also easy targets, Seldon admitted, simply due to the abundance of vehicles in one space.

And while police said they are following up on all tips and leads in the investigation into who is behind this crime, Seldon said it’s also important to follow the old adage.

If you see something, say something.

“Be aware of things you see,” he said. “If you see someone under a vehicle, for instance, in a place that you feel like is an unusual place for that to be happening, then perhaps you tell someone. … You just have to be on alert because it can happen anytime and anywhere.”

And it’s not a victimless crime either, as Sharon Daniel, executive director of New Life Church, learned for herself on Sunday.

Just hours after it was used to pick up and drop off parishioners for Sunday morning church services, somebody stole the catalytic converter off of the church’s 14-passenger bus.

Daniel said church officials were preparing to drive the bus down to Tennessee next week, but now they’re playing a waiting game.

“We can’t get the bus fixed in Kokomo, so we have to have it sent to the dealership in Lafayette,” she said. “I called because I hadn’t heard back from them, and they are so backed up, they don’t think they can even get an estimate to me yet. Then they said it depends on the supply chain as to how long it will take to get the parts so that we can get the bus back.”

And that will cost the church money that Daniel said she believes should have been able to be spent differently.

“I wish they (individuals who are stealing catalytic converters) would put as much effort into productive work as they put into work that’s going to hurt others,” she said. “We will just have to make alternative plans. That’s just life, right? You just have to deal with it and move on and hope it doesn’t happen again.”

If you have any information or surveillance footage regarding the recent theft of catalytic converters, you can call the KPD Hotline at 765-456-7017.

You can also leave an anonymous tip for the department by using the tip411 app or by calling Central Indiana Crime Stoppers at 1-800-262-TIPS.

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Kim Dunlap can be reached at kim.dunlap@kokomotribune.com or at 765-860-3256.

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Kim Dunlap can be reached at kim.dunlap@kokomotribune.com or at 765-860-3256. 

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