Detectives with the Vienna police department are trying to track down the people responsible for stealing catalytic converters from two vehicles in the town’s northeast quadrant during the same overnight period.
The first theft occurred between Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 9:30 a.m. in the 1000 block of Fairway Drive, N.E. A resident reported that someone stole the catalytic converter from his vehicle.
On Dec. 10 at 3:46 a.m., resident living in the 400 block of Course Street, N.E., reported that someone had taken the catalytic converter from her vehicle.
The locations are within two blocks of each other. Both of the vehicles involved were older-model Toyota Priuses, police said.
While the thefts occurred in the same time frame and geographical area, police do not have anything definitive linking them, but “we obviously wouldn’t be surprised to find a connection,” said Master Police Officer Juan Vazquez, a Vienna police spokesman.
Thefts of catalytic converters have been consistent problem in the region and have increased in the last year, he said.
According to a recent report by the Highway Data Loss Institute, claims involving thefts of catalytic converters from second-generation Toyota Prius models made between 2004 to 2009 occurred about 45 times more frequently in 2020 than in 2016. Other car models from the same period did not experience such a claims increase.
Thieves value catalytic converters because they contain expensive metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium, which serve as catalysts that help break apart pollutant gases into less harmful ones as exhaust vapors pass through the devices.
Catalytic converters from second-generation Priuses typically fetch $1,022 at scrap yards, while ones from third-generation models of that vehicle garner about $548, according to the report.
The converters also typically lack vehicle-identification numbers, which make it hard for authorities to track stolen ones, the report read.
“They’re a quick and easy theft, with a high ‘return on investment’ and low risk,” Vazquez said. “The thieves in these cases typically use various compact tools to cut the converters loose from the exhaust system. It doesn’t take long, and they sometimes carry some form of jack, so it doesn’t matter particularly about vehicle height.”
In addition to selling the devices for their rare-Earth metals, thieves sometimes mount the stolen converters on other vehicles, he said.
According to www.nerdwallet.com, experts recommend that owners of targeted vehicles install protective plates or cables to deter thefts of catalytic converters. Another anti-theft technique is to cover the converter with high-temperature fluorescent orange paint and inscribe the vehicle’s identification number.
Vazquez recommended that motorists park in garages whenever possible to deter catalytic-converter thefts. Well-lighted areas deter thieves and motion-sensitive lights save electricity while creating an impression that someone might be at home, he added.
Alert residents also can serve as a crime deterrent, Vazquez said.
“Community members should never hesitate to call the police about unusual activity and people in the area,” he said.