The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Police Search for Catalytic Converter Thieves in Bensalem

Photo courtesy of unsplash

Thieves have been targeting catalytic converters on a daily basis in Bensalem, and the devices are expensive to replace.

Catalytic converter thefts, which have become a national issue, are a growing trend across Bensalem. Lieutenant Michael Schum of the Bensalem Township Police Department says there have been “28 catalytic converters stolen in the month of October in Bensalem.”

Catalytic converters are easy to steal and contain metals with skyrocketing values that can be sold for profit. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), catalytic converter theft has spiked dramatically due to three precious metals found inside them: palladium, rhodium, and platinum. When they’re removed, vehicles are generally undrivable.

Bensalem Police are still searching for multiple catalytic converter thieves in Bensalem, including the theft of multiple catalytic converters that occurred off State Road at Stone World Kitchen and Bath, on August 18.

According to the Bensalem Police Department, the converters were lifted from vehicles parked in the Stone World parking lot at 520 State Rd.

It was reported that an unknown white male arrived on the property with a possible hand-held pipe cutter at approximately 11:00 p.m. An older model blue Jeep Cherokee also arrived on the property in the same area as the suspect.

“Converters are being sold for $300,” says Schum. The profit, however, is just a fraction of the cost to replace the stolen part for some.

“It really depends on the vehicle but, the average cost to replace one catalytic converter can be anywhere from $1,500 to $,2000” says Mark Harris, a mechanic from Bensalem Auto Care inc.

Harris says he sees someone in need of a converter replacement “at least once a week, sometimes more.”

The theft at Stone World occurred just a few months after a theft in March, when two subjects removed a catalytic converter from a vehicle while it was parked in the parking lot at Bensalem Commons Apartments.

Police are still in search of the suspects that fled the area towards Woodhaven Road.

“There’s no real time frame, but it generally occurs when people are sleeping, around 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.,” says Schum. The thieves are “usually part of a network of groups working in unison. They’re not usually targeting people, just specific vehicles.”

Converters can be stolen in less than one minute, often lack identification details that can make them easier to track. Thieves may also target taller cars that are easier to get underneath.

“There are few residential thefts. We see it happening around commercial and industrial parking lots, apartment complexes, store parking lots, and train station lots, when commuters are gone for the day,” Schum added.

Schum commented on the influx of thieves targeting Honda Accords, “previously thieves were targeting Hondas, and foreign vehicles, due to their expensive parts. But there’s no rhyme or reason.”

The U.S. Justice Department announced on Nov. 2 a takedown of nationwide catalytic converter theft ring. They said, many stolen converters were sold to DG Auto Parts LLC in Freehold, New Jersey. The company allegedly sold precious metal powders it extracted from the devices to a metal refinery for more than $545 million.

According to a report by NICB, as of December 2020, rhodium was valued at $14,500 per ounce, palladium at $2,336 per ounce, and platinum going for $1,061 per ounce. Typically, recyclers will pay $50 to $250 per catalytic converter.

NICB reports, the increase in catalytic converter thefts has been dramatic. In 2018, there were 1,298 catalytic converter thefts for which a claim was filed. In 2019, it was 3,389 thefts with a claim. In 2020, catalytic converter theft claims jumped massively to 14,433, a 325% increase in a single year.

There are a few ways to protect against catalytic converter theft including parking in well-lit areas, installing motion-sensing lights or cameras in your driveway, and investing in catalytic converter locks and shields.

Bensalem police are also searching for a pair of brazen thieves who allegedly stole 10 catalytic converters from transportation vans over a year ago. The vans were located at the LIFE Saint Mary senior center on August 13, 2021.

Surveillance video shows the two suspects arriving in a maroon minivan with a paper temporary tag, backing into a parking spot at the back of the building around 2 a.m. One subject is seen approaching the transportation vans with a battery-operated reciprocating saw.

If you have any information regarding the identity of these suspects, Bensalem Police Department asks you to contact them or submit an anonymous tip.