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Vidalia Police Battling Rash Of Catalytic Converter Thefts

The Vidalia Police Department (VPD) is battling a rash of catalytic converter thefts. It takes a thief with the right tools approximately 90 seconds to separate a catalytic converter from the underside of a vehicle. The thief can sell the converter to a scrap yard for $100 to $350, while it can cost the victim $800 to $5,000 to replace it, depending on their insurance coverage. On Monday, December 5, Captain Roger Calloway stated that citizens had reported over 10 thefts of catalytic converters throughout the city. He explained that thieves took these converters for monetary gain, as these parts contained chalk with pieces of precious metals inside of them.

“A lot of these thieves are targeting later models of vehicles, because they are the ones that contain these precious metals,” Calloway remarked. “Also, we are seeing that trucks and vans are targets of this theft more often than cars, because continued from page

they are easier to maneuver under.”

Calloway also shared that it is the quickness and ease of these thefts that make them so difficult to catch. “It is just quick. It doesn’t make a lot of noise, it only takes a minute with the kind of saws they use, and they are able to hide under the vehicles if they hear someone coming,” he said.

He reassured that the Department has a few leads on these thieves and is continuously working to try to address the issue. “Some of these people want these converters so bad that they hire others to do it for them, so they do not get caught,” he commented. “Then, those individuals sell the converters to another individual. Those buyers then sell the parts to another middleman; it’s a chain.”

Calloway added, “Trying to catch that chain has been so difficult. I have many people working on it to try to help, so I hope soon we can eliminate the issue,” he said.

According to Calloway, dimly-lit areas are targets for these thieves. “Officers ride through the areas a few times a night, but when these people lay really still underneath the vehicle or have a lookout, it is hard to catch them in the act,” he shared. “That’s why it is so important that if someone sees people walking down the street with these parts in hand, they need to call and report it to the police department.”

Another issue with the crime is that most catalytic converters do not have serial numbers, making it difficult for law enforcement to prove a catalytic converter is stolen. This lack of identification makes it difficult to identify victims and successfully apprehend and prosecute criminals.

“This is not an issue that only happens in our area,” Calloway remarked. “I have talked with law enforcement in Tattnall and other surrounding counties, and we are all battling this issue; but we are also all working together to try to bring an end to this situation.”

How to Know You’re a Victim At a glance many are unaware their catalytic converters have even been stolen; it is not until the vehicle is started and sounds very noisy that the crime is apparent.

One citizen recalled an experience with a catalytic converter theft. The individual was at the Wee Care Preschool and heard a sound similar to an “Indy racecar.” Upon hearing the sound, the individual saw Cornerstone Children’s Center Director Diane Born pulling up in the daycare’s van, and realized the Vidalia Cornerstone Church had been the target of a catalytic converter theft.

“It takes a very lowdown person to steal from the church and from the children,” the witness said. “I felt so bad for Mrs. Diane.”

Calloway commented on this particular incident, saying that officers had been sure to ride through the parking lot areas of the Center and Church, but because of the seclusion and dark vehicle storage area, had not been aware of the commission of the crime until the vehicle was running.

How You Can Help

Calloway said that the Department plans to continue to explore leads and work with neighboring departments to try to “squash” the theft ring and sales related to the parts. He also encourages citizens to contact the police station if any suspicious activity is seen. “If you see something, say something.”

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