COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Back in the day, car radio and batteries were the prime targets for thieves.
However, since January, people are going after a car part with a little more value.
“Years ago, you wouldn’t ever think about stealing anything from a church. But nowadays, people will steal from anybody, and that’s kind of sad,” Fairview Church Minister Tommy Gillon, said.
Sunday night, thieves cut the catalytic converters out of two vans belonging to Fairview Baptist Church.
Tommy Gillon, a minister at the church, says this crime can happen to anyone who is seen as an easy target.
“We generally keep ours all locked up but because of Vacation Bible School and some other activities at the start of the summer. We’ve had one or two that was left out and I think it’s just because churches are vulnerable and maybe somebody won’t even report it,” Gillon said.
Columbus Police say they have had 10 to 15 cases of stolen converters since March.
Tony Hannah, the store manager at Three Star Muffler, tells us they’ve replaced over 20 since January.
But why are thieves going to the trouble to get these hard-to-reach parts?
The reason is hard to get materials.
“It’s the precious metal that’s in the catalytic converters that they’re wanting. And they send them overseas to be recycled. And so that is why catalytic converter prices went up dramatically over the last 6 months and that’s why the theft went so high,” Hannah said.
Converters contain Radium and Platinum.
Radium can go for $40,000 an ounce and Platinum can go for up to $1,100 per ounce.
While buses and SUVs may seem like the bigger target, in fact, car specialists say that these smart cars and environmentally friendly cars are the cars that are going to be the biggest target because of the amount of precious metal in those catalytic converters.
“Priuses apparently have more of the precious metals in them and so that’s why they are a higher target because the value of that used converter on the market is a lot higher than say, a Honda Accord,” Hannah said.
Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton says there are some things you can do to make it more difficult for thieves to convert your car parts to cash.
“You might want to think about going to the shop and getting a catalytic converter welded on. I tell people to put the VIN number, the VIN number, of the vehicle, that the catalytic converter comes with because it doesn’t have any serial numbers or VIN numbers on it,” Chief Shelton said. “So when they bring it to a scrap metal place and they sell it as junk, it just looks like junk.”
Chief Shelton says they are looking for one suspect who is described as a middle-aged white man who drives a gray Toyota Tacoma.
This suspect has been known to cover up his license plate as well.