Johnson City Police investigate surge in catalytic converter thefts


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Johnson City police are investigating a rise in thefts for catalytic converters, a valuable car part.

Police say it can take as little as 60 seconds for thieves to get under your vehicle and remove your catalytic converter. They can then be resold for up to a thousand dollars.

A catalytic converter

Authorities say thieves tend to target larger vehicles that sit higher off the ground and are often parked at businesses. Lieutenant Don Shepard of the Johnson City Police Department says these thefts commonly occur at night or in the early morning hours.

“Since about the first of November, we’ve had 25 to 30 vehicles [with] the catalytic converter stolen off of those,” said Shepard.

All modern cars have catalytic converters. They can be removed with simple cordless power tools and contain valuable metal like platinum.

“A catalytic converter is basically meant for emissions on your vehicle. It also makes your vehicle more quiet,” said Kevin Dwyer, an owner of Browns Mill Auto-Tech in Johnson City.

Johnson City police said it can cost up to $2,000 to replace a catalytic converter. Dwyer said his shop recently had to replace one for $700.

“People are stealing them because they have precious metals in them, and they can get a lot of money at the scrapyard,” said Dwyer. “And people will steal them, and you will know when you start your vehicle because it will be really, really loud.”

Police in Kingsport are also noticing this theft.

“I would say over the last couple of weeks we’ve had about five or six different reports come in for thefts of catalytic converters,” said Officer Tom Patton. “We have seen these happen in broad daylight, in store parking lots while the businesses are open.”

Patton said catalytic converter theft is the type of crime authorities see surges of at different times, and thieves can be difficult to catch.

“So far we’ve not seen any sales of these materials locally, so we probably believe they’re taking them outside the area to resell them,” Patton said.

Patton encouraged parking in well-lit and populated areas, and parking your car in a locked garage whenever possible.

Johnson City police say their investigation is ongoing and ask the public to be vigilant and call 911 if they see anything suspicious.

“We suggest that anyone with a business that has these types of delivery trucks would park their vehicles in a well-lit area. Preferably somewhere where surveillance cameras can pick up a suspect or a vehicle,” said Shepard.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Johnson City Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 423-434-6166. To remain anonymous, people can also call Crime Stoppers at 423-434-6158.

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