Fairfax County, Virginia, police are stepping up their efforts to catch thieves stealing catalytic converters.
It's a quick-hit crime with a high pay off as the precious metals inside the converters command a high price.
Robberies of the kind have increased more than 10-fold in the county this year.
From January to April last year, there were 28 catalytic converter thefts reported to Fairfax County police. In comparison, there have been 333 reports during the same time frame in 2022.
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Now, police say they are dedicating many resources into investigating, deterring and finding those responsible for the thefts.
Recently, a man was arrested after a resident reported suspicious activity. Video shows how police responded by setting up surveillance cameras in the area. Then, undercover detectives kept watch, catching him in the act two days later.
But enforcement is just part of the approach. Police are also partnering with G&C Tire & Auto in Chantilly to etch serial numbers into catalytic converters. They’ll be offering the service free of charge on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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"The serial number helps to prosecute because you can prove that converter came off your car," Gregg Caldwell from the auto shop said.
But that’s not all.
The auto shop says they’ve found something that might also deter thieves: spray painting the catalytic converter with bright orange paint.
"We want them to see something that makes them go, 'let’s pass on this car,'" Caldwell said.
The most targeted vehicles are the Toyota Prius from 2004 to 2009, but thieves
have also hit other vehicles.
Getting the etchings or paying for a metal shield are worth it. The bill to repair and replace a stolen catalytic converter can be more than $2,000.