The Tuscaloosa Police Department is stepping up patrols and taking other proactive measures to combat a recent rise in catalytic converter thefts.

Catalytic converters contain platinum, palladium and rhodium, metals that have increased in price in recent years. The gear is part of a vehicle's exhaust system and can be extremely expensive to repair or replace. People who steal them and find a place to sell them off the books can net hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

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According to a release from TPD, several units per shift will be assigned to patrol target areas, including churches, non-profits and other places that leave work trucks or vans in parking lots that are unoccupied.

"We want people to know what type of vehicles are primarily being targeted," said Captain Kip Hart, the leader of TPD's Criminal Investigations Division. "We're seeing church buses, passenger vans, big work trucks -- they're the primary target of the thieves as they're a little higher off the ground, easier to get under and, plus, the converter itself is generally a little bit bigger, which would contain more precious metals."

According to the release, the Criminal Investigations Division has received reports of 78 catalytic converters being stolen in 46 separate incidents since mid-April. Since June 1, 40 were stolen in 25 incidents.

 

The release stated many of the thefts occur during the overnight hours, although some are happening in broad daylight, including one report of a theft at 8 a.m. on a weekday.

In addition to TPD's aggressive patrols, Hart said those involved in area businesses and nonprofits should stay alert and aware of the state of their vehicles.

"We're asking folks, if they have this type of vehicle at a church or business or a construction site, to keep an eye on their vehicles if they're left overnight and just to check them on a regular basis," Hart said. "If something's amiss, let us know and if they see anybody that's suspicious in the area, to go ahead and call the police department so we can get out there and check them out."

 

TPD investigators are encouraging businesses, churches and organizations that fall under the targeted category to consider directing security cameras toward the parked vehicles and report any suspicious activity, day or night.

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