Thieves targeting cars' catalytic converters

February 14, 2011 4:20:03 PM PST
Thieves are taking an expensive item off of vehicles and leaving the car owner with a pricey repair. The theft of catalytic converters is a growing problem in our area, so we have some tips about what you can do to stop it.

Some people don't even know where their catalytic converter is. However, thieves do and they've been carving up vehicles to get away with them. But there are a couple of things you can do to make much tougher to take.

It can take only about 10 seconds for an exhaust pipe to be cut. It's how thieves after precious metals are stealing catalytic converters from the Bellaire and West University area.

"Yea, I would have no idea -- I don't even know where your catalytic converter is located," one resident said.

In the last eight weeks, more than 16 catalytic converters were cut off overnight while parked in the street or driveway.

Most of the vehicles hit were Toyota 4Runners built between 1996 and 2000.

"To start with, they are high up off the ground so it's easier for the thief to crawl up under there and they are held in place by four bolts that can easily be cut using a hacksaw," Bellaire Police Department Assistant Chief Byron Hollaway said.

Police are now asking residents to park in the garage or under a light in the driveway.

"This is actually a Toyota 4Runner where the catalytic converter had been previously stolen," Steve Dragos with Mayco Muffler Shop said.

Dragos says over the last year more and more victims have been showing up, paying on average about $250 to replace the part.

While an alarm that detects vibration could help, Dragos says for about $15 a muffler shop can weld your converter on.

"You could try and have somebody spot weld or weld the flange to where it will make it more difficult for somebody to get under there," Dragos said.

With no leads on suspects, residents are just making sure to keep an out for the ground underneath their vehicle.

"That is crazy. What's next?" said Mark Silberman, who works in Bellaire.

Police say if you can fit your vehicle into your garage or park under a light, that will help to deter thieves.