TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa police say your catalytic converter could be worth hundreds of dollars, and it only takes a few minutes for a thief to cut it off.
A recent surge in these thefts has police stepping up their efforts to curb this type of crime, along with Oklahoma lawmakers.
The high-dollar metals inside your catalytic converter attract criminals and leave car owners like Tim Cameron out hundreds of dollars.
“About six weeks ago, I got up in the morning and started my car and I was going to go about my business and the first thing I noticed was that I had a huge hole in my muffler, or something was really wrong," Cameron says.
He says he quickly realized what had happened because his son just had his stolen too.
That's when he quickly called the Tulsa Police Department and filed a report.
"They gave me the impression that they were a little bit overwhelmed with this and to be honest, I felt like they were playing whack-a-mole, you know that game where you hit one, and then one or two others show up," he says.
Tulsa Police Lt. Brad Staggs heads up the unit that investigates these types of crimes.
“Those metals are high dollar right now and so the criminals are actively stealing those right and taking them to recycling businesses to get the money for them and the metal out of them," says Staggs.
He says because of the high dollar that's being offered for the metals, thieves are being extremely bold.
"They are stealing them in the daylight, and they are stealing them in 3 to 5 minutes. It doesn’t take them long to get underneath a car and cut them off," Staggs says.
Right now, police are targeting the cutters, but in February, they encountered a buyer who had many catalytic converters at his home.
“There were around 140 catalytic converters that were at his residence, and I think we found an additional 10 more up at his shop in north Tulsa" Staggs says.
Police arrested a man named Daniel Louis.
Staggs says they were surprised at the number of converters discovered at his home.
Officers tell 2 News that different metals go for different prices, but they are seeing a high number of converters stolen from the Prius.
Because most catalytic converters do not have a VIN number on them, the Tulsa Police Department has come up with a unique way of tracking them.
Staggs says other communities across the country implemented VIN etching programs where they will work with other businesses to provide free VIN etching to victims who have had their vehicle targeted multiple times.
“We are trying to work up a program right now where we can get that started," Staggs says. "We are working with Representative Ross Ford to try and get some of those loopholes cleaned up about who can buy them and where they can take them to.”
Rep. Ford is looking to beef up burglary laws by making stolen parts from the outside of a vehicle a third-degree burglary.
Another bill would forbid those previously convicted of stealing catalytic converters, from owning tools that make those types of thefts possible.
Ford says these two bills would give law enforcement the power to not only punish those who commit catalytic converter theft justly, but also prevent potential theft from occurring.
Midas in Tulsa is repairing dozens of cars each month due to stolen catalytic converters.
“Within Tulsa, we probably did 75 to 80 catalytic converters, so we have seen quite a spike in catalytic converter thefts unfortunately," says Midas director, Steven Cascio.
Tim Cameron says he believes the solution to this problem is simple.
"Obviously, the police are doing their best, but somebody needs to do something about the people who are receiving these stolen goods and identify the outlets," Cameron says.
If Ford's bill passes and becomes law, people like Daniel Louis would face even greater consequences.
Right now, he is facing multiple charges including possession of a firearm, possession of a stolen vehicle and conspiracy.
See this full story WEDNESDAY on 2 News Oklahoma at 10.
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