Raleigh, N.C. — At least two dozen catalytic converters were stolen from vehicles parked at auto shops in east Raleigh over the weekend.
Jim Sughrue, a spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department, said Tuesday that someone cut a hole into a fence around the lot at Griffin's Transmission Services, at 1031 Corporation Parkway, Sunday evening and stole five catalytic converters.
Nineteen others were stolen from two other shops in the area, including Garry's Auto Repair, at 1015 Corporation Parkway.
Police are still investigating the crime and have not yet identified any suspects.
Theft of the devices, installed on vehicles to help reduce pollution-causing emissions, isn't something most people think about until they are actually stolen, but insurance companies, like Nationwide Insurance, say it's a common crime.
Stolen converters are usually sold to scrap yards for around $100 to $150 because of the precious metals, such as rubidium, palladium and platinum, in them.
Replacing stolen catalytic converters can cost hundreds of dollars.
Donna Augustono's daughter had the converter stolen from her Mitsubishi Galant.
"Financially, it's going to be a struggle to take care of the car, because it's probably going to be more than $200 to replace that part," Augustono said.
Garry Oates, who owns Garry's Auto Repair, says there's nothing that can be done to prevent converter thefts.
"All you can really do is to keep an eye on your car and be mindful of who is coming and going," he said
Nationwide says the thefts commonly occur on vehicles that sit higher from the ground as well as those that are parked for prolonged periods of time in large lots.
One of the best ways to help prevent thefts is to park in well-lighted areas and close to entrances.
Nationwide also recommends having the vehicle's license plate number engraved on the converter to make it traceable.
"There's no way to know if it's been stolen from our end," said Greg Brown, of Raleigh Metal Recycling, which buys and recycles metals.
Brown says he only buys from known businesses that repair or replace converters and he pays out using a special ATM machine that takes a photograph every time a person uses it.