Thieves steal catalytic converters across the nation and here in New Orleans

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 5:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A catalytic converter is an anti-pollution device on vehicles that contains precious metals, and it’s become a magnet for thieves looking to make a lot of money.

“It’s one of the most profitable things to take on a car,” says Mechanic Paul Villere.

Thefts of catalytic converters is sweeping the nation, and it’s happening right here in New Orleans.

On Monday, surveillance video from the 1100 block of Florida Avenue in Gentilly, shows a green Fiat pull up next to a Toyota 4-Runner and stop. The thief gets out, rolls under the 4-Runner and within a couple of minutes, steals the catalytic converter and takes off.

“A battery operated reciprocating saw is used. You can cut the exhaust pipe before and after the catalytic converter and it just drops out,” says Villere.

Mechanic Paul Villere says a thief can steal one in about three minutes, and then sell it to a scrap yard. Because of the precious metal inside of the catalytic converter, it’s profitable, especially if they steal several in one night.

“$300 a unit, 10 of them would be $3000 for under a half an hour of work,” says Villere.

The NOPD says so far this year, thieves struck four times in the Gentilly, Lakeview area.

In Sacramento, California, neighbors captured cell phone video of a group of thieves in the act.

The thieves, though, continued to work and one of them even confronted the neighbor with a blow torch.

“It’s really getting out of control. It takes seconds to get your converter and get out, but these guys can be dangerous,” says Former NOPD Officer Justin Brown.

Brown says if you catch criminals in the act, you should never confront them.

“These converters are worth thousands of dollars. They are coming armed, and they are trying to get what they need to get and get out of there quickly,” says Brown.

He says many times, the thieves will operate in groups and it’s never safe to intervene.

“If you see somebody under your car, jacking it up, call 911,” says Brown.

Being a victim is more than just a headache. Replacing catalytic converters can cost thousands of dollars.

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