Caught on camera: Auto dealer catches alleged thieves taking catalytic converter

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 5:40 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Caught on camera — a Tucson used car dealer said they caught thieves stealing a catalytic converter right off their property.

It only took about six minutes for Jay Auto Sales to be out about $1,000 Friday night. Their security cameras caught at least two people in what looks like a white Honda, pull up to an SUV parked inside their gate, crawl under and take the converter—even as a car drove by.

“They had the temerity pull upside my property and violate it, it really, it makes us very angry,” said David Clarke, sales associate for Jay Auto Sales. “Now, I’m down three cars because of this.”

For a used car dealership, it is costing them money every minute a car isn’t on the lot to be sold. Jay Auto says they’ve had this happen four times. This comes at a time used cars are worth more than normal—and new cars are hard to purchase due to chip shortages, that require the same precious metals found in the converters. Just about 10 minutes away from Jay Auto Sales, Gerry Levario’s shop, Grant Road Auto Service, has customers come in frequently, victims of stolen converters. Levario has the unfortunate job of telling them how much it’ll be to replace.

“I had one customer, luckily he had an insurance claim, it was a $3,000 part for his converter to be replaced at the dealership for his Prius,” said Levario.

Thieves are taking the converters because of the precious metals they have and turning them around to scrap yards to make a quick buck. Tucson Councilman Steve Kozachik said these thieves and purchasers are breaking several laws.

“What we’re calling on now is for the scrap metal dealers to understand… you are violating state law if you buy one of these things from somebody other than a dealer,” said Kozachik. “Setting aside the thievery part of it, we need protect the environment by keeping these things on vehicles.”

The Tucson Police Department said each reported case is handled by a detective unit in each district, who will follow up if needed, but Clarke feels it’s a low priority for the police department. Since making their report, it has been crickets.

“The thieves are scouting dealerships, and they’re looking for the opportunity to steal these,” said Clarke.

TPD said to follow some of these safety tips to help keep thieves at bay:

  • Park in well-lit areas or close to buildings or cameras
  • Park in a garage rather than on the street
  • Have your catalytic welded to your car’s frame
  • In some cases, vehicle owners have had an encasing welded over the catalytic to prevent easy access
  • Have your vehicle VIN engraved on the converter
  • Calibrate your vehicle alarm to alert when it detects vibration
  • Keep in mind that quick accessibility may leave your vehicle more vulnerable. If your vehicle is higher off the ground, it may become a quick target

A reminder is to call in all suspicious activity, these are the types of calls that can lead to us identifying these types of theft and making arrest.

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