GREENSBORO, NC -- Police in Greensboro are seeing an increase in catalytic converter thefts from vehicles.
In just the last three months, police say 47 catalytic converters have been stolen off vehicles in the City of Greensboro.
Police say it's a crime of opportunity and it’s also a crime that takes thieves less than 5 minutes to commit.
Surveillance footage shows the moment two guys stole from a Triad non-profit agency that helps homeless pets.
A catalytic converter was taken from a truck belonging to the Humane Society of the Piedmont this week.
Executive Director Erin Stratford Owens says watching the video back gives her the creeps.
“They seemed like they were experienced thieves,” said Stratford Owens.
At 1:03 am on Wednesday, a dark colored truck pulls up in the parking lot of the Humane Society of the Piedmont.
In the video, two guys get out of their car and approach their target, carrying a battery powered saw.
One suspect checks to make sure nobody is looking and then makes his move.
Just 4 minutes later, at 1:07 a.m., the suspects leave with the catalytic converter in hand.
They back out of the parking lot in reverse so the cameras don't pick up their tags.
“It makes me angry. It makes me angry,” said Stratford Owens. “It's more than an inconvenience.”
The climate-controlled truck is used to transport animals from 23 different organizations across eight different counties.
“It keeps the animals safe from heat or cold,” said Stratford Owens. “You can't just rent any kind of box truck for this kind of work. This is a special box truck.”
Stratford Owens says the Humane Society of the Piedmont had to pull out about $600 from its savings account to replace the catalytic converter.
She says they use the truck five days a week.
“It's taking money away from an organization that is doing good work for homeless animals,” she said.
A catalytic converter is a part of the vehicles exhaust system that helps reduce pollution. It is sought by thieves because it is relatively easy to remove, has no identifying markings, and the precious metals inside of them can earn money at metal recyclers.
Kelly Robinson, a mechanic at Doss Towing and Automotive, says catalytic converters are an easy target for thieves to make a quick buck.
“Catalytic converters can be recycled,” said Robinson. “There are recyclers in town that pay $100-$400 depending on the make and model they come from.”
The truck belonging to the Humane Society of the Piedmont has been fixed and is now safely parked behind a locked gate.
Stratford Owens says the organization is ready to get back to helping homeless pets in the Triad.
“We absolutely will not stop doing what we are doing,” said Stratford Owens. “Our mission is extremely important. This little blip in the road is not going to stop us.”
Police say vehicle owners may not realize their converter has been stolen until they start their vehicle and hear a loud banging sound from the exhaust system.
Operating a vehicle without a properly working catalytic converter system can lead to additional damage and costly repairs.
Vehicles with higher ground clearance, such as SUVs and trucks, seem especially vulnerable to these types of thefts.
Police warn residents to take the following precautions to reduce their chances of being victimized:
1. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a secure location such as an enclosed building or a well-lighted and/or fenced in parking lot.
2. If you must park your vehicle in the driveway, motion detector lights or continuous lights illuminating your driveway may be a deterrent.
3. If you own an automobile-related business, consider increased security measures such as fencing, exterior cameras, and/or lighting if vehicles are parked on the premises overnight.
4. Report to police suspicious people walking around parking lots or near businesses after hours.
5. Purchase catalytic converts only from legitimate dealers, which will reduce the market for stolen parts.
Police also ask residents, metal recyclers, scrap metal companies, and used vehicle parts businesses to report to police any suspicious sales or attempted sales of catalytic converters from unauthorized parts representatives.