Catalytic converter theft on the rise in Charlotte

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 10:25 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte police are warning of the rise in theft in vehicle catalytic converters in our area. Those are barrel-shaped filters used in your car exhaust system, and they can be worth some money. Criminals can steal them and turn them in for a quick buck for the precious metals found inside.

“Anybody would be angry. Anybody would be furious that this happened. It’s a violation, like you’re not expecting it.”

Chris Lee was coming home from a weekend getaway when his transmission gave out on the freeway. You my have seen him pulled over on the side of the road. He called for help but had to leave his car until the morning since no tow truck was available. It was when he came back that he realized there was a big problem.

“When the tow truck guy started the car up to back it up on the roll-behind, it was insanely loud. That’s when we realized someone had stolen both of my catalytic converters from my car,” said Lee.

The crime has become so prevalent, it’s now on the CMPD’s radar. Officials say so far this year, 430 converters have been stolen, an increase of more than 170 percent. Police say the thieves are also becoming more brazen. Officers showed surveillance footage of a theft of a converter in progress. It shows a suspect driving up, and in broad daylight cutting off and stealing a catalytic converter. Total time for the crime was just over a minute and a half.

“They’re still getting paid for them, you know a couple bucks here and there.”

Keith Romines works as a shop manager at Transmissions Unlimited in Mooresville. He says despite the rise in thefts, there’s really not a lot of money to be made by stealing the converters.

“People are thinking that they have special metals inside of these catalytic converters. A long time ago back in the day it was there, but now it’s not,” said Romines.

So instead on one big score, thieves are opting for how much they can get away with.

“I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how somebody could rob you over ten dollars.” Lee told us.

But for Lee, it’s not the money he’s out that’s important. He worries what would have happened if his family was in the car.

“It could have been my wife broken down on the side of the road instead of me. And they could have come up, not knowing she was in the car. My wife, my daughter. I don’t even want to think about that.

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