ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Ferguson police arrest major players in a ring of metal thieves. Several cities in our area have been working together to catch the group, which police say lately has been stealing catalytic converters.
Ice cream trucks are the most recent target for metal thefts. Thieves made off with 28 catalytic converters in just three days. Cars won't start without one.
"Crawl under the car and one cut, two cut, they have it and they're out," Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said of the thieves' work.
And the payoff is huge. Police say they sold their stolen goods to Metro Metal. At nearly $150 a pop, the thieves walked with almost $4,000 for only minutes of work. The chief says it's so easy, it's a virtual license to steal.
"It's the same with copper," Chief Jackson said. "Huge amounts of copper are being stolen out of houses because the scrap metal places will buy it."
Now this is eye-opening: In the city of St. Louis alone, police say thieves have stolen $4.6 Million worth of metal in just the past year.
"I believe they don't care," Leonid Pernad, a mechanic at the ice cream business, said of the scrap yards. "They need the metal, you have it, so fine, they buy it."
And get rich at your expense. Scrap yards pull a pretty penny for the precious metals inside the stolen converters.
"Platinum, which is one of the most common ones, sells for about $2,000 an ounce," Chief Jackson said.
Police recovered six of the stolen converters at Metro Metals. Evidence photos show a perfect match to where they should go underneath the ice cream trucks.
So we went by Metro Metals, but nobody was there who could talk to us on camera. An employee does tell me though, as the "top metal buyers" in town -- as advertised on a truck trailer -- they "don't intentionally try to buy stolen goods."
The chief says scrap yards are just as guilty as the thieves. He wants a crackdown.
"Scrap metal should be retained for a certain amount of time, along with positive identification and even photographs of the sellers," Chief Jackson said. "(The scrap metal buyers) have a responsibility as citizens to put a stop to this, because they're the only ones who can."