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Catalytic converters from hybrid cars are being stolen in Takoma Park, police say

The types of cars being targeted are hybrids because they have two power sources. And because of the valuable gunk that is inside of them.
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WASHINGTON — Catalytic converters are being stolen from hybrid cars in Takoma Park, Maryland, according to Takoma Park Police.

Thy types of cars being targeted are hybrids because they have two power sources – an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine – so their catalytic converters are used less frequently to process pollutants. This means the metals inside them are less likely to corrode, so they're more valuable and therefore more desirable to thieves, said police. 

So far, police say there are two instances that hybrid catalytic converters were stolen and both happened between May 15 and May 27. The locations where the catalytic converters were stolen are the 7300 block of Birch Avenue and the 7600 block of Maple Avenue.

"A catalytic converter is a device incorporated in the exhaust system of a motor vehicle, containing a catalyst for converting pollutant gases into less harmful ones. If you take a look inside a used catalytic converter, nothing looks salvageable, much less valuable. But some of the gray gunk in there can be processed to go into pricey jewelry -- and because of this, the grimy auto parts are becoming prime targets for thieves," said Takoma Park Police.

Below is some guidance from Takoma Park Police about symptoms of converter theft, preventing catalytic converter theft and what to do in the event of a theft:

Symptoms of Converter Theft

You will notice a loud rumbling or roaring sound as soon as you turn on the engine if your catalytic converter is missing. This gets louder when you hit the gas. The exhaust is not working properly, so the vehicle also drives rougher than usual, often with a sense of sputtering as you change speed.

Go to the back of the car and look underneath. The catalytic converter is a round canister that connects two pieces of piping in the exhaust. You will see a gaping space in the middle of your exhaust if the converter is missing, and you will likely see signs of the piping being cut away.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft

Always park in well-lit areas when possible. If you have a personal garage, keep your car in the garage with the door closed when the vehicle is not in use. Park close to a building entrance or to the nearest access road when parking in a public lot. This is due to the increased amount of pedestrian traffic in those areas.

Security devices are available that attach to the converter, making it harder to steal. Having the converter welded to the car frame also makes it more difficult to remove. If you have a security system on your car, calibrate it so vibration sets it off. This ensures the alarm activates if a thief tries to saw off the converter. Video surveillance around your garage or driveway is also useful if you have the budget for it.

Engrave your VIN number onto your catalytic converter to make it easier to identify in case it does get stolen.

What to Do in the Event of Theft

Notify the police department as soon as you discover your catalytic converter is missing. If you have your VIN number engraved on the device, give them that number as well. Call local scrap yards to inform them of the theft, especially if there is an engraved number on the converter that they can verify. Give them your phone number so you are notified in case your converter shows up at a scrap shop.

Diligence is your best defense against catalytic converter theft. Pay attention to local news reports so you are aware of any theft increases. While there is no guaranteed method of preventing theft, the goal is to make your car as unattractive a target as possible.

The more inconvenient your vehicle is to get to, the more likely a thief moves on to an easier target.

WUSA9 will continue to provide updates on this story as more information comes into our newsroom.

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