ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A crime that can damage every car or truck owner is on the rise in the St. Louis area.
Mitch Stonebarger founded Hyper, a cleaning and restoration company. He lost three catalytic converters from company vehicles in one night.
“I’m pretty upset about it,” he said. “I feel violated.”
Stonebarger bought a used catalytic converter and repaired the truck himself and it cost him $500.
A catalytic converter is part of a vehicle’s exhaust system designed to remove pollutants.
In the first 11 months of 2019, there were 33 catalytic converter theft incidents in St. Louis County; this year, already 197.
One incident can result in several devices stolen.
Statistics show Wednesday 11 a.m. is the most popular time for criminals to steal them.
And they can do it quickly.
“Criminals can take these within a minute or two,” said Detective Mike Nickolaus, St. Louis County Police Department. “The value of the unit itself catalytic converters has gone up recently.”
Suspects sell them for the precious metals inside. One of the hardest-hit areas is in Earth City. Many of the businesses there have big trucks parked on their lots at night. Big trucks mean bigger catalytic converters, which criminals can sell for even more money.
Here are some things you can do to protect your vehicle at your home or business:
- Install outdoor lighting
- Add security cameras
- Park the vehicle behind a fence
- If you have a garage, use it
Stonebarger worked hard building his business into what it is. Still, he has sympathy for the thief who hit his company.
“I hope the person gets help,” he said. “I don’t know that they need to go to jail. I feel they have deeper issues.”
Police said they’ve made dozens of arrests. In some cases, catching the suspect in the act. In other incidents, they arrested business owners who buy the converters but don’t have records describing who they bought them from as required by law.