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Thieves convert converters to cash

Posted June 27, 2008

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— Twenty catalytic converters have been stolen in the past week from cars in University of North Carolina park-and-ride lots, police said Friday.

The thefts are the latest in a string of crimes to get money from scrap metal. Dozens of metal vases disappeared from cemeteries in Wake and Johnston counties. Copper coils were ripped from air conditioning units, and hundreds of feet of copper cable that was stolen in Durham knocked out phone and Internet service to part of the city. Storm sewer grates were plucked from city streets.

Raleigh police said nine converters were stolen from vehicles at an automotive repair shop in the past month, and another five were taken from vehicles at a car dealership. Thirty-six converters have been reported stolen in Durham this year.

Catalytic converters are a part of a vehicle's exhaust system that help reduce harmful emissions. They contain small amounts of precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium.

A converter was stolen out from under Richard Silc's vehicle on Tuesday. He uses a park-and-ride lot in Chatham County so he can take a bus to the UNC campus.

"I turn on the ignition (Tuesday evening) and hear this loud roar, and I immediately knew it was my catalytic converter," Silc said. "I've been through the drill before."

Last month, somebody tried to cut out his catalytic converter but didn't finish the job, he said.

"We have not seen the same kind of rash (of thefts) as we have over the past seven days," UNC Public Safety spokesman Randy Young said.

Replacing a stolen converter can cost hundreds of dollars. Silc said the estimate he received to repair his vehicle was almost $2,500.

Police urge people to be on the lookout for unusual behavior, especially in parking lots.

"(Watch for) people moving in and out from between cars (and) folks who are loitering in a parking lot, looking like they may be working on an automobile," Young said.

Silc said he would like to have cameras installed in commuter lots. UNC officials said they are exploring that option.

"I don't want to go through this again and the money and the hassle just to take public transportation," he said.

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  • Evil one Jun 27, 2008

    Public caning would be a reasonable punishment and an effective deterrent.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 27, 2008

    Simple solution; new punishment laws for stealing; 25 years or lose a hand; the thieves gets to choose their medicine. Some will still do it but it will make quite a few others quit. Cruel and unusual you may think; not hardly, the punishment that is being inflicted on us is where the cruelty exists.

  • djofraleigh Jun 27, 2008

    The converters have platinum in them and that fetches 15 to 25 bucks, I estimate, and then the metal is worth a buck.

    Society needs to recycle metal, so the scrap yards can't close, and they can't spot stolen converters so easy as you think. They let artillery rounds go by them, remember. IDing scrappers bringing in metal would be good, pix, picture ID, NCDL, plate number would suffice. Not got that, no entry.

    I hate a thief. Look at all the extremes society goes through to foil thieves. Locking doors, keys, security systems, insurance and fear all because of thieves.

  • mfalesana Jun 27, 2008

    2,500 dollars for a catalytic converter?!?!?! that is bull. I can't think of a single car that would cost that much to replace it. Even a full exhaust from the engine back wouldn't cost anywhere near that. It might be a few hundred but that's for everything. jeeeez... talk about over exaggerating.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Jun 27, 2008

    Scrap metal businesses and pawn shops are realing cashing in good. Why? Because the laws protect them. Of the accountability laws out there, they're easier to bypass than Republicans on an IRS holiday.

  • Travised Jun 27, 2008

    Look at what they are doing to truckers and some cars. They will drain HUNDREDS of gallons of diesel from rigs parked in a lot. At what is it now, 4.60/gal? multiply that by hundreds of gallons stolen from rigs and it's costly. Transportation costs go up, food costs go up.

    It's not just metals

    One weekend, at one lot, the criminals drained over 1200 gallons from a parking lot of rigs. Now the drivers have to fill up the trucks in the morning before they head out. Wastes more time, but removes the risk of fuel theft.

    Metal scrapers are trying to make the most in the quickest time. The ones that steal don't care about the laws. They want the most they can fit into a backpack or trunk with the most return. It's a sad state that we have to watch out for items on our own property.

  • moreupset Jun 27, 2008

    Close the business that buy the scrape metals. They are as much to blame as those who steal it. These companies know good and well these items did not fall out of the sky!

  • choirgirl Jun 27, 2008

    With gas the way it is and food and everything else going up with it you might as well expect it's going to get a lot worse.

  • See Chart Jun 27, 2008

    If this job market gets any worse
    they may start stealing water towers
    at night to put food on the table.
    Who is doing this crime?
    I guess it costs more than a penny to
    produce a penny,what a fix we are all in.