Catalytic converter thefts become a deadly problem in region
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The increase in thefts of catalytic converters is starting to take a deadly toll, claiming the lives of two victims in Georgia and one would-be thief in North Carolina.
And while the crime hasn’t killed anyone we know of in the CSRA, it’s a problem here.
In the southern Georgia town of Homerville, a couple was found dead in their car from carbon monoxide poisoning after the catalytic converter was stolen from their vehicle.
Robert and Belva Mizell were died on Wednesday, the same day Belva celebrated her 55th birthday.
After their catalytic converter had been stolen, the exhaust from the idling vehicle entered the passenger compartment and killed the couple.
A vehicle’s catalytic converter converts toxic exhaust fumes to less dangerous substances, and operating a vehicle missing its catalytic converter can be deadly.
Theft victims haven’t been the only people killed by the pursuit of catalytic converters.
Earlier this month, a man was crushed by a car in Indian Trail, N.C., while he was trying to steal a catalytic converter, deputies said.
Deputies with the Union County Sheriff’s Office found the man underneath a Toyota Prius around 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 8.
Detectives say it appeared the man was trying to cut off the exhaust pipe when the car fell off a jack and crushed him.
The same thing happened in September to a thief in Westchester County, N.Y.
And in northwest Houston in October, a thief was shot dead while trying to get a catalytic converter.
Why steal a catalytic converter?
Thefts of catalytic converters started rising during the economic upheaval at the start of the pandemic, and it’s still a problem.
“If the car is off the ground or higher, you can slide under and cut it off and then you bring it to the scrapyard and get like $300-$400 for it,” said a Georgia mechanic named Cash King.
The CSRA hasn’t been immune from the rise in catalytic converter thefts. The crime started to show a sudden spike here a little over a year ago, with parking lots and even car dealerships often being thieves’ venue of choice. And while there have been some high-profile arrests, the problem hasn’t gone away.
King said catalytic converters contain precious metals, such as platinum and rhodium. Before a buyer accepts one, they should test them to make sure those costly materials are still inside. They’re required for the chemical process that transforms the fumes.
Mechanics recommend not getting in your vehicle if you hear an excessively loud noise when putting your key in the ignition. This sound indicates there is an issue. The best thing to do is to get your car towed and serviced by a professional.
“Please keep in mind that stealing catalytic converters is not a victimless crime,” Clinch County Sheriff Stephen Tinsley said. “You are putting lives in danger.”
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