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Rise in catalytic converter thefts in Lexington

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Posted at 4:12 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 18:21:20-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Cars and trucks across Lexington are just sitting, waiting to be fixed after thieves stole their catalytic converters.

David Dean, owner of Dean Builds says his trucks, sitting outside of his business, have been hit twice this year. They were all parked near a camera.

"We started parking the trucks closer to the cameras on the building, but they're pretty good at what they do. So we aren't able to see them on the camera. They kind of come in, crawl in, and cut that off the trucks and then leave," said Dean.

He's operated since 2002 and says he's never had it happen. Now he's thinking of ways to avoid it and inform others.

"In these times, they're really just trying to figure out how to make $1 and these guys have figured out, they're gonna make $1 taking catalytic converters," said Dean.

Just around the corner at Bluegrass Pet Crematorium, manager Gina Kirwan says their three Toyota Tacoma trucks were hit by thieves as well.

"We are a small locally owned business, and yes our insurance will cover that. But that's not really the point. Some of our neighbors have been targeted more than once, and that's just gonna raise everybody's insurance rates and it's downtime for production," explained Kirwan.

She also says because there wasn't enough evidence, Lexington Police informed her of the difficult solvability through a letter.

"Even if you have cameras, if you see it happening by the time we call the police the thieves are long gone by the time they get there," said Kirwan. "

Kirwan knows of several other businesses in the area that were also affected. She wants what happened to be a warning for others.

"You know you need to really watch your vehicle and not park outside where there's nobody around because you'll be in the same boat," said Kirwan.

Residents at the Emerson Center Apartments for senior living say there have also been a rash of catalytic converter thefts there.

"It was stolen already before and just this morning as I was getting ready to leave to go visit my brother in Nashville to get away from all this they stole it again," said resident Kathy Plunkett. "People are staying awake now at night because they can't sleep because they know it could be their car next. So we're all just on edge."

Lexington police say they've seen a rise in catalytic converter thefts in line with the national trend.

We submitted a records request to find out exactly how many.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says it's been happening across the country since March 2020.

"We have seen a significant increase during the pandemic. It's an opportunistic crime. As the value of the precious metals contained within the catalytic converters continues to increase, so do the number of thefts of these devices. There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals," said NICB President/CEO David Glawe.

Their study was conducted by looking at insurance claims filed for the issue.

The converters are designed to help with environmentally hazardous exhaust and are often made with precious metal platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which prices have gone up for.

Here are the numbers from NICB:

"At the beginning of 2020, rhodium was at $7,100/oz; palladium was at $1,967/oz, and platinum was at $1,022/oz. As of the end of 2020, rhodium was $14,500/oz; palladium was $2,336/oz, and platinum was $1,061/oz."

Here is advice on how to protect yourself from LPD:

  • If possible, store your vehicle in a garage overnight or when the vehicle will be unattended for an extended period.
  • When parking your vehicle, choose well-lit areas and avoid obscure locations that provide concealment for potential thieves.
  • In open parking lots (stadiums, retail establishments, etc.) choose parking spaces between other vehicles or fixed objects. This limits the space around the vehicle making it harder for potential thieves to access the under-carriage.
  • Home surveillance systems are beneficial for identifying suspects and can act as a deterrent for criminal activity. If possible, we recommend having a camera that covers your driveway and/or on-street parking spaces in front of your home.

For organizations that operate commercial fleet vehicles, the following appear to be best practice approaches:

  • If possible, store fleet vehicles within a garage or fenced-in lot that is access controlled, well-lit, and monitored by a video surveillance system.
  • Repair/reinforce fences around lots that are damaged and allow easy access.
  • For larger fleets, we recommend hiring private security guards to patrol lots during the overnight hours.