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Catalytic converters increasingly targeted

Staff writer

A raft of catalytic converters stolen recently across the county have one thing in common: All were stolen from larger vehicles.

A catalytic converter valued at $2,578 was reported April 10 as being stolen from a 2002 Ford Excursion owned by Tammy R. Smith, 40, Hillsboro, and parked on the street in the 600 block of E. C St.

Hillsboro police chief Jessey Hiebert said the Ford hadn’t been run since January.

The incident is far from isolated.

A converter valued at $1,000 was stolen between noon and 4:30 p.m. April 12 from a 2004 Ford F-250 owned by Gina R. Hadley, rural Marion. It had been parked at Marion Manufacturing, 201 S. Coble St., Marion.

A converter valued at $2,237 was stolen between 6 p.m. March 8 and 7:30 a.m. March 9 from a 2000 Ford F-250 parked in a lot at Hillsboro Ford, 202 S. Main St.

Less than a week earlier, a converter was stolen from a 2003 Toyota Tundra parked in the Hillsboro Pizza Hut’s parking lot.

Hiebert noted that all were larger converters stolen from vehicles easy to get beneath.

He speculated that large converters might be worth more than others.

The theft from the Toyota was a brazen act in the middle of the day. Tundras have an option for a V-8 engine, which would have a large converter.

Hiebert said officers found metal shavings beneath where converters were stolen, apparently from a reciprocating saw used to cut out the converters.

Reciprocating saws are noisy.

“I’m wondering if people use a metal pipe cutter,” he said.

A pipe cutter would be quieter, he said.

It might be difficult to sell the stolen converters, Hiebert said.

“When they take them into recycling businesses, they don’t want to deal with a stolen catalytic converter,” he said. “They don’t want to get hung out paying for a stolen catalytic converter.”

Darrell Rankin, who owns All Parts Salvage in Wichita, said his business never bought catalytic converters.

“We never have,” Rankin said. “We don’t buy stolen merchandise.”

Nevertheless, people frequently come to his business trying to sell them.

“The problem is, they’ve got to cut out the buyers,” he said. “You have to be a licensed buyer to be able to buy them. When we buy a car, it comes with them. We sell them to a licensed buyer.”

Rankin said it was illegal for salvage businesses to sell converters to the public.

Michael Marks, owner of ABC Recycling in Wichita, said his business purchased catalytic converters but only under certain conditions.

The seller must have a title to the car the converter came from and must not have sold a converter there in the last year.

“Somebody’s buying them somewhere,” he said.

Recyclers recommend that manufacturers start putting a vehicle identification number on converters.

Bringing a car title to Marks’ business doesn’t mean the converter came from that car.

“You have to take his word that it came out of his vehicle,” he said.

He does offer a suggestion to help prevent converters from being stolen: marking the converter with the car’s VIN number.

“Once they get under the car and see the bright paint on the converter, they’ll go elsewhere,” Marks said. “You could get the heat-proof paint yourself, get a stencil, and paint your converter.”

Last modified April 19, 2023

 

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