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Successfully preventing catalytic converter thefts

In December 2020, 2,347 converters were reported stolen. The year before, only 578 thefts were reported.

INDIANAPOLIS — John McDermott is sick of having his delivery trucks' catalytic converters stolen. In the past two or three years, he said he's replaced at least three.

"I've got surveillance cameras; I've got people watching, neighbors. And the latest thing I tried was the steel boxes," McDermott said.

13News met McDermott in May when he decided to spend $3,000 total installing three steel boxes or custom-built cages around his trucks' catalytic converters. The cages make it more difficult for criminals to saw off the converters.

Flash forward five months and McDermott said it's the best money he's ever spent on vehicle repairs or maintenance.

That's because if it weren't for the cages, he would've had more catalytic converters stolen.

RELATED: Catalytic converter theft victims are fighting back against thieves

Recent surveillance video from McDermott's parking lot shows people looking under all three trucks getting ready to strike.

Except this time, they spot the cages and leave.

"It was kind of bittersweet because you know that they're still out there looking," McDermott said. "I was very pleased that the boxes, the steel boxes, were a deterrent."

Bill Amonett co-owns Beck Service Center in south Indianapolis, the place that built McDermott's converter cages. He estimates they've built 75-100 cages.

"Some of these converters, depending on the year, make and model, I mean, you have converters that can run $1,000 to $2,000. You got some of these diesels can run up to $13,000 to have them replaced," Amonett said.

Catalytic converters clean engine exhaust before it hits the air by using trace amounts of precious metals. And those metals are what makes the converters valuable.

The National Crime Insurance Bureau said these thefts are skyrocketing.

In December 2020, 2,347 converters were reported stolen. The year before that - just 578.

Credit: Indiana State Police
Catalytic converters and a saw were recovered by State Police in Indianapolis Saturday, March 13, 2021.

RELATED: Catalytic converter thieves target Indianapolis Boys and Girls Club

Stealing a catalytic converter is a felony in Indiana.

The law says a person may not sell or attempt to sell the valuable part when it is "not attached to a motor vehicle at the time of the sale or attempted sale, unless the seller is a used parts dealer or an automotive repair company."

The law goes on to say that it does not apply if the seller presents the valuable metal dealer with certain ownership documents, or an affidavit executed by a law enforcement officer attesting to the officer's reasonable belief that the catalytic converter lawfully came into the possession of the person attempting to sell the part.

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