The thefts occurred at two different parking lots approximately three miles apart along Ga. 2 (Battlefield Parkway).
The first incident took place at the Golden Corral buffet restaurant at 760 Ga. 2 between 6:35 p.m. and 7:17 p.m., while the second happened just moments later between 7:10 p.m. and 7:17 p.m. at the Beall's Outlet store at 2625 Ga. 2.
In both cases, the owners of the vehicles left stores and returned to their vehicles to find that their converters had been removed.
According to Lt. Steve Blevins, thefts such as these aren't uncommon.
“It's something that we've dealt with in the past, and it's a problem that usually comes in clusters,” Blevins said. “For somebody that knows what they're doing, they can drop under a vehicle, remove or saw off the converter, and be gone in just a couple of minutes.”
Blevins says the basis for such thefts is the various coveted metals in the converters that can be resold.
“Typically, they are wanted for the platinum, copper, rhodium, gold, and any other precious metals that exist in the part,” he said. “The rise in metal values over the years is what makes the part attractive to thieves.”
As was the case in both instances on Jan. 6, the most likely targets for such thefts are trucks, vans, and SUVs, due to the fact that they sit much higher off the ground than most cars.
“In the incidents, we had a 1997 Toyota 4-Runner and a 2004 Chevrolet Venture van get hit,” Blevins said. “It's easier for the thieves to get to (the converters) the higher they sit, and Toyota vehicles seem to be targeted the most due to their converters being a little more visible and accessible.”
Some of the larger Toyota trucks and SUVs even have two catalytic converters on them, which makes them that much more vulnerable.
Blevins says that the monetary gain for thieves varies with each converter depending on vehicle type, but stated that the replacement value for the vehicle can run anywhere from $300 to $500.
“It depends on the converter really, but even aside from that, the vehicle owners could accumulate a larger mechanic's bill if the stolen converter creates additional problems with the exhaust and engine. A part that costs a couple of hundred dollars can quickly turn into a $800 or $1,000 bill if it isn't taken care of right away.”
Although, it's unrealistic to expect people to crawl under their vehicles to evaluate them after every trip to the grocery store, Blevins says that it isn't hard to detect when something has been tampered with.
“Just imagine driving around with no muffler. The vehicle is going to be extremely loud,” he said. “If you're out somewhere and you return to your car, you'll know immediately if that particular part has been stolen.”
Following the incident at the Beall's Outlet, detectives contacted the store's management team in regards to checking the video surveillance of the parking lot.
Anyone with information regarding the two thefts is encouraged to contact the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department at 706-866-2512.