EUGENE, Ore. - Thieves are crawling underneath parked cars and stealing the catalytic converters to sell the platinum and other precious metals for scrap.
Eugene police have seen a rise in converter thefts, with 11 reported this month so far and five in May.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries says catalytic converters don't have serial numbers, so they can't be tracked. That makes a stolen converter all but impossible for a scrap dealer to identify
"What's being taken is the mesh, if you can see it," explained Nate Fife of Knecht's Auto Parts. "That's what's worth the money."
The platinum and other valuable metals in this little exhaust part is worth enough that thieves go to great lengths to steal them -- right from underneath your car.
Last Friday, someone jacked up vehicles in broad daylight at the Lane County Fairgrounds and cut out the converters.
"That's a new one for us," said Pam Pomerleau with the Lane County Fair. "First time we've ever had a catalytic converter stolen."
What makes the fairgrounds an attractive target? The fairgrounds is a park and ride lot. People park their cars and take the bus to work and come back 8 or 10 hours later. In the meantime, there's little traffic.
And if your converter is stolen, you have a problem. It's loud to drive without one, not to mention illegal. And they don't come cheap.
"The most expensive converter was for that truck," said Steve Rogers with Kidsports, a victim of catalytic converter theft. "That was $1,200. Then it went down a $670, and three for about $142."
Add labor and it was a big bill this year for an outfit that provides sports programs for children.