The number of catalytic converter thefts reported to the Licking County Sheriff’s Office this year was more than five times the number reported in 2020.
According to LCSO Col. Chad Brown, the agency received reports of seven incidents involving stolen catalytic converters last year. On Tuesday, they received 38 reports this year.
Licking County is not the only community affected by an increase in such thefts.
In an August press release, AAA reported an increase in insurance claims and auto repair claims related to catalytic converter theft in Ohio. The National Insurance Crime Bureau has reported that catalytic converter thefts have “skyrocketed” across the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The NICB reported an average of 108 thefts of catalytic converters per month in 2018.
“Flights started to climb in 2019 and skyrocketed in 2020 to peak at 2,347 flights in December 2020,” AAA said in a press release.
According to AAA, a catalytic converter is a device that controls vehicle emissions by converting pollutants into less toxic gases. The organization says thieves are targeting them because they hold metals that have risen in value in recent years.
At least two agencies – the Licking County Aging Program and the Licking County Department of Health – have been affected by thefts of catalytic converters among their agency’s vehicles in the past year.
According to Melissa Owens, director of LCAP, their agency has experienced four incidents since 2020, affecting 11 of their vehicles. She estimated that they had 35 vehicles in total, between transport vans and food delivery trucks, or hotshot, trucks.
“What’s so frustrating is you don’t know… until the next morning when our drivers come out and start our vehicles and realize they’ve been stolen. The last time this happened. , for example, they hit three of our hotshots. trucks in one night. “
Licking County Health Commissioner Chad Brown said he believed six of their agency’s 25 vehicles had been affected over the summer months. These six vehicles, he noted, had catalytic converters stolen on several occasions. He speculated that these were perhaps the easiest vehicles to remove.
Owens said they have a way around the issue affecting their flagship vehicles when needed, but it affects other departments when they need to use other vehicles as backups. She also explained that due to COVID, the agency currently has to limit two passengers to their transport vans, but when those are out of service, it impairs LCAP’s ability to take clients to appointments. medical and other places.
“They call us for transportation because they have no other means, so when the thieves take that ability away from us, it’s just kind of an extra slap,” Owens said. “No one ever thinks stealing is a good idea, but it’s frustrating when they get down so low that they steal in vehicles that deliver meals to people who need it every day. It seems like a level. record in my opinion. “
In an effort to deter people from stealing, Owens said his agency installed additional lighting in his locked enclosure. She noted that the last time a hole was drilled in the fence to access vehicles. According to Owens, LCAP has a camera system and also paid to have catalytic converter locks installed on some of the vehicles. She predicted that they would soon make the decision to install the locks on all of their vehicles.
“Instead of spending money on customers, we’re spending money on trying to protect the vehicles that serve customers. But it’s definitely going to affect our insurance rates for next year,” Owens said. . “These locks that we want to put on the vehicles, for the vehicles that we have, it will cost between $ 300 and $ 750 per vehicle, so it’s a big expense to protect the vehicles that I think we shouldn’t have to do. anyway. It’s just a cost that could be better spent on customers. “
According to Brown, the health department has also installed additional lighting and upgraded its camera system. They also requested an increased overnight presence by the Licking County Sheriff’s Office. Brown said they are also installing catalytic converter locks on their agency’s vehicles.
Although they were successful in finding a way to bypass the affected vehicles, Brown said it hampers their efforts and delays the agency to get things done as quickly as it could otherwise. He also noted that the flights cost the agency around $ 1,200 each time, which also hinders LCHD financially.
Dennis said Licking County has always had issues with catalytic converter theft, but it seems to be becoming more and more common. He noted that their detectives had made a few arrests over the summer and that at least one individual had stolen several converters.
“It’s just an easy and quick thing to cut and steal. They’re under the car for two minutes, cut it and they’re gone,” Dennis said.
He encouraged community members to park in a populated area where people will enter and exit, so that someone will feel less comfortable flying. When parking at night, he advised the community to park in a well-lit area, so that someone can see if someone is trying to crawl under their car in the middle of the night.
AAA said the best way to protect a vehicle is to park in a garage or secure parking lot. However, since this is not always an option, they recommend that drivers parking on streets deter thieves by parking under a light, consider installing motion-sensing security lights, locking their car doors and set up a camera and vehicle alarm; consider installing an anti-theft device; and make sure they have full insurance coverage to help cover costs if they need to replace a catalytic converter.
Owens said she hopes the biggest takeaway from the community will be to report it if they see anything suspicious in their communities.