Catalytic converter thieves target church van, moving trucks, 20+ other vehicles in Columbus

Catalytic converter thefts

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — Authorities are urging vehicle owners to be vigilant amid a record string of auto part thefts.

Columbus police received at least 24 reports of stolen catalytic converters from Oct. 1 to Nov. 8, according to Lt. Matt Harris, a spokesperson for the department.

The city was averaging “nearly one converter theft a day,” he said Friday.

The unidentified suspects targeted larger vehicles — including moving trucks and a church van — at various locations and times of day, according to authorities.

The exhaust emission control devices can be sold for up to $250 at scrap yards, auto experts said; it can cost vehicle owners thousands to replace a converter.

Trending Headlines

“A lot of times when [thieves] scrap these, they’re turning around and using the money to purchase drugs,” Harris told News 8. “This many victims is something we don’t usually see here.”

Kim Stein, a longtime Columbus resident who lives off Beam Road, said two people in her neighborhood had been targeted by the converter bandits.

“They’re pretty blatant about doing it,” Stein said. “[The suspects] go in, get it done and leave. It’s a quick process.”

Experienced auto parts thieves can slide under vehicles and remove catalytic converters in minutes or seconds, Harris said.

He urged residents to call 911 if they “see anyone climbing under a vehicle with a portable saw.”

Any vehicle manufactured after 1974 can be a target. 

  • HAVE YOU BEEN TARGETED? There will be a hole near the middle of the exhaust system, underneath the back side of the vehicle. It will make a loud roaring or rumbling sound when you start the engine. The noise will get louder as you push the gas pedal. The vehicle may sputter as you change speeds. 
  • PROTECT YOURSELF: Park in busy, well-lit areas or in your own garage. Have your VIN engraved on the catalytic converter so it can be traced back to you. Weld or bolt the converter to your vehicle’s frame.