Preventing catalytic converter thefts

David Potter
Published: .
Updated: .

Thieves are striking cars and trucks across central Indiana stealing a valuable piece of equipment that ends up costing you money.

"Anybody's vulnerable," said Stephan Ramsey whose truck was targeted in broad daylight. "Started my truck, noticed it sounded kind of loud," said Ramsey. "I knew right off the bat they were going after the catalytic converter. I just cannot believe what people are capable of doing and how bold they can get.""

Inside the catalytic converter are precious metals.

Now, David Potter at the Ralph's Muffler Service on 6601 East Washington (317-352-9736) has filed a patent on an anti-converter theft cage to stop thieves from targeting your car.

"We are the only place to make that cage.  They cannot get these off with those on there," said Potter. "They find out once they under there that they've got to work to get it out, so they move on."

The cage that Potter creates costs $200 per side. Ralph's Muffler Service on 6601 East Washington has installed 50 so far. For the victims, hit by criminals, it is a possible solution to protect their vehicles in the future.

Potter welded the cut on Ramsey's damaged catalytic converter but says it will cost customers anywhere from $1,300 to $1,400 to replace the equipment. He climbed under the truck to show how thieves tried to cut away Potter's catalytic converter.

"Right here is where the perpetrator tried to cut the converter off. They start here with an electric saw zaw. And they come right here and saw right here. Saw it right here in front and rip it out," said Potter.

The crime is hard to stop because thieves strike so quickly.

"They hit nine buses in about 20 minutes," said Shepherd Community Center Executive Director Jay Height.

Now, the organization that serves children and families might lose their insurance. Shepherd has already spent thousands of dollars to upgrade security on property.

"We've added several security cameras, that work 24 hours a day that are monitored to help us observe any kind of traffic that would come in at any time of the day," said Height. "It provides an additional security feature for us. We're hiring off duty law enforcement officials to sit on our lot at night to protect it. It's unfortunately costing lots of money to do that. Money that's taken away from the programs for the kids and families that we serve," said Height.

"It's trying to be vigilant and making sure everything's well lit. Cooperating with your neighbors, and making sure when these things happen, you let the police department know. They've been great to work with, and are trying to help us, solve this. It's just a problem that, until the scrappers stop taking these things, we'll continue to have this issue," said Height.

"It really hurts the innocent victims of our neighborhood, the children, teens and their families who we serve. We need to redirect funds that should help them are having to go to pay police officers to sit here and protect our vehicles and that's really ridiculous when so many organizations are trying to help kids. The need is growing. We need to put our resources where they should be going. And that's investing in the lives of those children," said Height.

Shepherd leaders have been told some criminals are choosing to rip off catalytic converters instead of dealing drugs.

"It's a more lucrative business because they're not going to do as much jail time so folks who may have dealt drugs in the past are more apt to do something like this," said Height.

The Johnson County Sheriff says deputies arrested a man in June 27, 2012 for trying to steal a catalytic converter from a vehicle parked at the Johnson County Hospital. According to the police report, 42 year-old Danny Malone told police he and another woman "decided that they could go grab 4-5 catalytic converters from cars and sell them for $400-500." Malone told investigators the first car he cut was interrupted by witnesses. Police said the suspect threw his tools out of his vehicle and officers found the black blazer was damage. According to the police report, Malone "wrote out a statement and also wrote the court and victim an apology for his crimes and expressed his remorse for the crimes that he had committed." Malone was jailed for attempted theft and criminal mischief.

The Fishers Police Department told Eyewitness News they have investigated 20 thefts of catalytic converters with all of the thefts occurring while the victim's vehicle was parked on a commercial parking lot.

Westfield Police report five incidents involving eight separate vehicles since January 2011.