• Police investigate string of catalytic converter thefts


    ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned police are investigating a string of catalytic converter thefts throughout the metro area.

    Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri talked with detectives who told her 26 vehicles have had the converters stolen from them in about a week.

    In nearly all of the cases, thieves are targeting Honda SUVs. Police said part of the reason could be it's easier to get underneath the vehicles and quietly unbolt the valuable part.

    "I got up the next morning and started the car and it sounded like 10 lawnmower engines," victim Richard Hinds told Viteri.

    Hinds spent $400 to order a new catalytic converter after thieves stole his last Monday morning. He said thieves targeted his Honda Element twice in one night while it was parked in front of his apartment on Bradley Street in southeast Atlanta.

    The first time neighbors called police, but an hour later the thieves returned and got what they were looking for.

    "The way the economy is now people are doing all kinds of things," Hinds said.

    Atlanta police said from May 2-11, 26 catalytic converters were stolen in the east side of the city alone, including Grant Park.

    Investigators gave Viteri pictures from a home surveillance camera which shows a person of interest in the thefts, along with an SUV.

    "Catalytic converters themselves have valuable metal inside of them and that's why they're targeted," said Officer John Chafee with the Atlanta Police Department.

    Police said the majority of the cases involve Honda Elements and in some cases CRVs.

    They said thieves target SUVs that sit high off the ground and in these cases, they're unbolting the part, not cutting it out.

    Police arrested Jesse Howard on May 2 after someone in southwest Atlanta witnessed him underneath a car allegedly trying to steal the part.

    Decatur's police department issued a warning Wednesday saying they've had seven thefts in a 72-hour period. Hinds said he's hoping thieves don't come back.

    "I did a little research online and they said that as soon as you repair it, they come back and get it again. So that's what I'm afraid of," Hinds said.

    Atlanta police are working with other departments to see how many of the crimes are potentially being committed by the same people.

    Viteri heard a lot of drivers say they back their cars into the wall to be less vulnerable. Police said be aware and report any suspicious activity.

    Anyone with information about these thefts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.

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