Police in Creve Coeur were investigating a recent rash of catalytic converter thefts at a scrap yard, when their suspect walked right in with another converter to sell. Officers were combing through the paper work that scrap yards are required to keep (which should include a name and photo I.D.) of customers that sell pretty much anything (aside from cans).
Police arrested 38-year-old Shannon Wells, an ex-con who told officers that he took converters to pay for a drug habit.
Catalytic converters are anti-pollution devices, located under the exhaust system of your car. In recent years, thieves have schemed to remove converters from cars in parking lots or on the street to sell them for scrap metal. The parts contains small amounts of precious metals (like platinum).
I called scrap yards who tell me that catalytic converters would get someone anywhere from a few dollars (for an old, small one) to more than $100 (for a newer catalytic converter). Larger parts from vans and trucks usually yield a thief more money. Wells told he preferred SUV's because the ground clearance was higher and allowed him to scoot under the vehicles more easily.
This crime is tough to deter. The catalytic converters are easy to steal with a simple metal cutting tool (like a battery-powered hand saw).
Edmunds.com wrote a piece about prevention here: www.edmunds.com/advice/insurance/articles/132109/article.html
Some businesses with fleets of vehicles have begun engraving identifying information onto the converters in hopes of tracking stolen parts.
Otherwise, police recommend you try and park your car in well-lit areas (especially in places like commuter parking lots - when a crook would assume you're not coming back for a few hours).
Diana Zoga is a general assignment reporter at News4. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org