A series of converter thefts have occurred in LaGrange within the last month, but have now ceased.
Since mid January, the LaGrange Police Department has reported five cases of converter thefts. Three of them occurred at two locations on LaFayette Parkway, one including the mall and other locations including Ragland Street and Trinity Street.
Detective William Nelson of the LPD said the thefts are likely related, but that has yet to be determined.
Converters have become targets of thefts due to the pricey metals such as platinum, nickle and rhodium that they are made with. Nelson said that most people who steal them would likely sell them to a scrap yard and can get between $20 and $200, and some of the materials could sell for up to $6,000.
The Georgia Precious Metals and Gems code requires that converters sold to scrap yards be logged and documented, in forms of paperwork, videos and pictures, along with information from the seller, so police can access the records, if needed, to investigate. Alabama laws require their scrap yards to supply a receipt from the seller showing that they have had their converters replaced.
According to Nelson, converter thefts are generally targeted towards vehicles that are higher off the ground, though any car could be a target. It is easier for suspects to slide under cars higher off the ground, and commit the theft that can be done in less than one minute.
“The suspects are using higher powered tools and saws to get the converters off of cars in less than one minute,” said Nelson. He said that the saws used do not make much noise, and due to the thin metals of the converters, it is less complicated to cut through.
Stealing converters could be profitable to suspects, the victims are not as fortunate. Some repair shops can charge customers thousands of dollars to replace a converter.
“If you become a victim of a converter theft, make sure you shop around to get repair costs,” said Nelson. He said that when he spoke with a locally owned repair shop, he found that the repair for most cars should not be over $1,000, though repair costs are car specific. He recalled speaking with two victims, and one paid about $2,000 for repairs and the other only $200.
Though he said that the city’s cases of converter thefts have suddenly halted, he advised that everyone park their vehicles in well lit areas and where there are cameras and people around. All of the five vehicles that were targeted, Nelson said, were left in a location over an extended amount of time with no surveillance.