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Rome police warn of rise in catalytic converter thefts

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 11/10/20

Rome Police have issued a warning about a rise in catalytic converter thefts from motor vehicles in the city. “Every night, our vehicles are under siege,” said Colin Smith, former dealership …

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Rome police warn of rise in catalytic converter thefts

Posted

Rome Police have issued a warning about a rise in catalytic converter thefts from motor vehicles in the city.

“Every night, our vehicles are under siege,” said Colin Smith, former dealership owner who said his personal garage on South Jay Street was hit by converter thieves recently. “It’s not happening anywhere else as it is in Rome,” Smith stated. “People have to be on the lookout.”

Police said the catalytic converters are cut from underneath vehicles overnight, leaving victims to not discover the damage until the following day. The converters are then sold to scrap yards for the precious metals inside, with thieves often traveling far outside the city to make the sales.

Smith said it can take less than a minute for a thief to cut the converter.

“This has to be enforced strictly to prevent the idea that Rome is a safe haven for converter thefts,” he stated.

Police said the rise in reported thefts has occurred over the past several months, with converter thefts in general stretching back at least a year. Police said the thieves are targeting locations with a large number of vehicles on the premises. These include auto dealerships, repair shops and businesses with their own vehicle fleets.

“We’ve stepped up patrols, extra patrols in the areas where large lots of cars are parked,” noted department spokesperson Lt. Sharon Rood.

“We’ve thwarted off a few, made some arrests,” she noted, adding that several thefts have been sent before the grand jury.

The thieves have been known to strike multiple vehicles on a single lot in one night, causing thousands of dollars in damages to the owners, police stated.

“As shop owners and personal individuals, every one of these cars is a separate insurance claim and it’s always under the deductible,” said Colin Smith. He said he’s been in touch with multiple dealership owners around the city, almost all of whom have been hit by the thieves — in both the inner and outer districts of Rome.

“When you cut off a converter, it renders a car useless,” Smith stated. An additional problem is that ever-evolving vehicle emissions standards means that some older model cars no longer have replacement converters on the market, Smith explained.

“There’s no way to replace it. A lot of the time with these vehicles, the converters are no longer made,” he said.

Police said the charges from catalytic converter theft could include grand larceny, criminal mischief and auto stripping. Police noted that all three charges are included in the recent bail reforms, meaning that anyone charged with such a crime will be released on their own recognizance by the courts until a conviction or sentencing, putting the suspects right back out on the street.

Lt. Rood said she was not yet aware of any catalytic converter thefts in private driveways, but Colin Smith warned that he has heard of some instances.

Lt. Rood warned the public to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior at car dealerships and vehicle lots, especially in the overnight hours. People loitering in lots or suspicious vehicles parked among new cars at odd hours of the night are possible signs of a thief in the area, she said.

Anyone who sees suspicious behavior in car lots or has information on thefts is urged to call 9-1-1.

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