Thieves target vehicles in local church parking lots

Thieves can make hundreds of dollars off of catalytic converters because of the rare metals they contain such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum.

According to Kevin Angell, the Public Information Officer for the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, local thieves are stealing the catalytic converters from vehicles left overnight in church parking lots. The converters can be worth several hundred dollars each because of different metals, some of which are rare such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum.

The thieves have been busy, with five separate incidents investigated in the past two weeks. Several of those have targeted multiple vehicles, Angell says.

Angell states that the church parking lots can be easy picking for thieves.

“People tend to leave cars at churches for a week or so at a time and park in areas on the back of the property or out of sight from the front of the church. That gives the thieves a safe place to steal the converters.” Thieves have also targeted vehicles left at empty vacation homes in the area.

Sargent Wesley Welborn, also from the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, provides these tips to protect your car:

  1. Park in well-lit areas near a road rather than an out-of-the-way location in the parking lot.
  2. If possible, park near security cameras or near motion-sensor lights.
  3. Check on the parked vehicle as often as possible.
  4. If at all possible, leave your vehicle at someone else’s home.

According to SLiPLO, a vehicle can be driven without its catalytic converter, but it will show some evidence that it is missing. When you return to a vehicle that has been left for several days, look out for these signs: (1) The engine will be unusually loud; (2) the check engine light will be on; (3) you’ll experience a headache when the windows are down; (4) you’ll experience less power when you accelerate from a slower speed (or less low-end torque); and (5) you’ll notice things are missing from underneath your vehicle.

Catalytic converter thefts have risen dramatically during the COVID pandemic. The American Automobile Association (AAA) states, “Any vehicle with sufficient ground clearance is a target. But pickup trucks, SUVs, and Toyota Priuses are often targeted because of their exceptionally expensive catalytic converters.” Thieves target vehicles based on three simple criteria: ease of theft, value of the specific converter, and opportunity.

If you know anything about these burglaries, contact Investigator Bob Kushman at the Sheriff’s Office (706)839-0500). Kushman is the lead investigator on these cases. Anonymous tips are accepted with no questions asked.


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