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Catalytic converter theft sweeping Muncie

MUNCIE, Ind.— A nationwide issue is hitting home in Muncie. Catalytic converter, an exhaust emission control device theft, is on the rise in the local community and on campus.

It is also becoming an issue within NewsLink Indiana as well. Alex Almanza, an anchor and reporter for NewsLink got his partly sawed off in the Baseball parking lot last week. He recalls hearing a loud sound coming from his car when he started it and immediately knew it was the catalytic converter. He contacted the Ball State University Police Department to look into it further.

Hope Kleitsch, Assistant Chief Weather Forecaster got hers completely stolen Saturday night in a location off campus in Muncie. This is not just an issue happening on campus, but in the community as well.

Adam Brown, Owner of Adam’s Auto Repair in Muncie, sees the issue come into his shop too frequently.

“What person in their right mind is going to do that?” said Brown.

It takes an average of 30 seconds to get under a vehicle and saw off a catalytic converter, a short time for a huge profit for many thieves. What gets them money on the part? The precious metals inside the converter. Platinum, palladium and rhodium are among some of the rare metals inside that go for big bucks.

“It's a huge ball park really, but they [thieves] can get anywhere from 30 to 40 bucks to up to $1,000,” Brown said.

As for the victim of the stolen converter, it could cost hundreds to fix.

“To fix, it depends on what it is, but most of them, the cheap ones, the universal ones you can use go for about $300 to $400,” said Brown.

Three people were arrested two weeks ago in Muncie, possibly tied to several converter thefts. Now the issue has moved to campus, with three reported on campus thefts in the last month. It's an issue the Ball State Univeristy Police Department is trying to get under control. Jim Duckham, police chief at Ball State PD said they are doing everything they can.

“We have increased our patrol in the parking lot areas, we have cameras all over campus that our disbatchers are looking at and we ask our campus community that if you see something suspicious, report it,” said Duckham.

Brown says he believes the issue could potentially stop at the junk yards where people turn in the converters for money.

“These people are taking 15 to 20 converters at a time to a scrap yard, the scrap yard at that point should just be calling the cops and saying hey come get these guys. Instead, somebody out there at different scrap yards are giving people money,” said Brown. “They just keep doing it.

So, if you're not rewarding them for breaking the law, they're not going to do it.”

For protecting your own vehicle, Chief Duckham says there is a few things you can do to try to prevent theft.

“If you can park in a well lit area, that seems to be helpful. Maybe also not isolating your vehicle.

If there are other cars on your left and right, park in the center, because that makes it harder for them to go under your car,” said Duckham.

Brown also said when turning on your vehicle, you can know your catalytic converter is stolen by the check engine light coming on or an extremely loud sound coming from your vehicle.

NewsLink Indiana will update on this issue if any more thefts occur.

Contact Terra Konieczny with comments or questions at tbkonieczny@bsu.edu.