Thieves slide under the car, make two cuts with a battery-powered saw and roll away with platinum in hand.
"It takes about five minutes and you make 100 bucks," said Det. Tim Yancey with the Henry County Police Department.
You probably don't even think about your vehicle's catalytic converter much, until it's gone. But when you try to start your ride again, you'll surely hear the loud sound signaling that a key part of the exhaust system is gone. And you'll feel it in your wallet when you have to replace the part, which can run up to a $1,000, depending on the type of vehicle you have.
On April 7, a man parked his 1995 Toyota 4Runner and went inside the Stockbridge Walmart. While he was inside the store, suspects in an older pickup backed in next to the Toyota, removed the catalytic convert and drove away, police said.
Surveillance cameras captured images of the suspects' truck, and now Henry police want to find the alleged thieves. Walmart officials say the same thing has happened several times this month.
The crime isn't isolated to Henry County, Yancey said. It's not just the catalytic converter itself that means quick profit for crooks, it's the precious metal inside, experts say.
John Whaley has owned Atlanta Specialty Auto Parts in Alpharetta for 16 years, and he said thieves have been targeting the catalytic converters for more than a decade. Whaley said there's just a small amount of metals such as platinum, rhodium or palladium inside. But those metals are worth plenty, even in small amounts, he said.
"As soon as the prices get high, a lot of people will start cutting off converters," Whaley said.
One weekend in February, thieves targeted a small Cobb County car lot and stole 14 catalytic converters, owner Tonya Leuthringshauser said. She has security lights and a surveillance camera, but the thieves turned the camera toward a wall after cutting through a fence. Two years ago, 11 catalytic converters were stolen, she said.
A variety of vehicles have been targeted, Leuthringshauser said. She said she learned of the February crimes when an employee was moving vehicles on the lot, which usually has between 60 and 70 vehicles. A vehicle without a catalytic converter will make a loud sound, she said.
"We heard the noise," she said. "Then we kept checking. Car after car."
Leuthringshauser said even though she didn't file claims on her insurance company, her insurance is being cancelled because she owns a "high-risk" business, she said. She has paid for the repairs of the vehicles out of pocket. But the single mother hasn't had the money to replace all of the parts.
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