Iowa motorists are being warned about a new breed of cat burglar — thieves who are stealing catalytic converters off of vehicles. More than 90 such thefts have been reported in the Des Moines area this year, with 25 at one location.
Neil Shultz, spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s office, says the crooks often target larger, more elevated cars, trucks, vans and SUVs. Shultz says the thieves seem to prefer high-clearance vehicles because they’re easier to get underneath.
he get under there with a socket set or a cordless reciprocating saw and removing the catalytic converter for the scrap metals inside. Those metals include platinum, palladium and rhodium. Your car will still run if the device has been removed, Shultz says, but it’ll sound like it’s missing the muffler. He says thieves zero in on areas where multiple vehicles are parked for extended periods of time, like car dealerships, park-n-ride locations, industrial areas and parking lots for schools, businesses and malls.
"If you’re in a parking lot, obviously you’re a lot more vulnerable than if you were in a garage, but if you have to park in a lot, especially overnight, I would try to park in an area that’s well lit and highly visible," Shultz says. "A lot of these thefts have occurred in areas where they have fleet vehicles, where they have a number of them side-by-side and the thieves have simply gone from vehicle to vehicle and taken the catalytic converters off of them."
The crooks might be able to get $200 for the parts, but it could cost $2,000 to replace, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. He says it’s a trend that’s been going on across the nation and in many countries around the world. Shultz stresses, if you see someone lurking around your vehicle, especially underneath it, call law enforcement right away.