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A familiar crime is cropping up again, only this time it's targeting churches and other organizations. There has been a recent rash of catalytic converters in Rowan County, and they've been taken right from under YMCA vans and church buses.
But the sheriff says there are some things that can be done now to stop these crimes.
"We heard about it Sunday morning in church," Gwen Hudson told WBTV. Hudson is a member of Lyerly Evangelical Church in eastern Rowan. "It bothers me that they would steal from anybody, but to steal from the church I think is worse and I feel sorry for the people that are doing this."
Vehicles parked at Lyerly Evangelical and Grace Bible Church were hit, along with the East Rowan YMCA. All three buildings are within just a few blocks of one another, and the YMCA was also hit last week.
The sheriff suggested that churches and other organizations should consider looking into outside lights and surveillance systems. Retail stores like the Radio Shack in the Salisbury Mall actually have a large selection of inexpensive, high quality cameras, and some will even send live images to a smart phone or monitor.
"This is something that you can monitor from your smart phone that you can watch on your computer, they're rather inexpensive, they run between $99.99 and $149.99, they work with your computer and a wireless network," said manager Christie Preston. "The cameras are very small. I took a night camera and took it inside a block room so there's absolutely no light, but they could see every move I was making by camera."
Many of these are motion activated.
"But you could also use them for outside if somebody walks past it and they're doing something they're not supposed to, you're going to catch them on camera," Preston added. "If you can get them on camera in some way, that's what the police need and they can actually do something then."
There's no guarantee that surveillance will always work. Last week the sheriff released video showing a man stealing a catalytic converter from the East Rowan YMCA, and it's tough to see his face. Even so, something is better than nothing, according to investigators.
The sheriff says these converters are being stolen and sold for the precious metal content, but it's an expensive repair for the victims, and often leaves them without a vehicle they count on.
"They use it for the youth, they use it like Sunday we had a lady that was coming to church for the first time but didn't have transportation so they went to pick her up and I think maybe that's when they found out the catalytic converter was stolen," Hudson added.
Anyone with information on this rash of thefts is asked to call Salisbury-Rowan Crime Stoppers, 1-866-639-5245.