PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Multiple police agencies in West Michigan are seeing an uptick in catalytic converter thefts. No one is safe from these crimes — not even local churches.
Portage Department of Public Safety arrested a suspect Sunday afternoon believed to be involved in thefts at two separate church parking lots.
One of the churches had been a target for two consecutive weeks. It’s not often the department sees these crimes done during broad daylight.
“One convertor each Sunday,” Lt. Bryan Mayhew said. “This was new for us.”
Police caught the suspect using surveillance video from the church’s exterior cameras. A team sat in the parking lot using an unmarked car to catch the suspect in the act of attempting to commit the crime again.
“Two Sundays in a row, we figured it warranted getting somebody there for a third,” Mayhew said. “I guess because (it was a) pretty easy target. … You’re pretty much guaranteed to be inside for an hour or so.”
Kent County Sheriff’s Office is seeing a record of its own. In 2020, there were 20 catalytic converter thefts. Last year, it spiked to 183 thefts.
It’s a quick and easy crime to commit that costs victims thousands of dollars worth of repairs. Service Advisor at Arie Nol Center, Matthew Marsiglia, says the cost ranges from $1,000 to as much as $3,600.
“It’s going to be really loud. It’s going to generally trigger the check engine light,” Marsiglia said. “You may even have pieces hanging down from the wires.”
Mechanics say the thieves steal the converters and sell them to make a profit. The process to cut the device out takes minutes.
It’s difficult to prevent these crimes from happening to you but there are some things you can do to make it harder for the thieves.
“I would probably recommend … motion sensors. Something to deter them,” Marsiglia said. “Park very close to the house or next to other cars where it’s not easy for them to gain access underneath there. … Check your car periodically.”
Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young says if you do see or hear anything suspicious, call law enforcement.
“So many people are very hesitant to call the police if they’re not sure something has happened. It’s part of our job to be diligent and vet those things out,” she said. “I’d rather be called then have it be nothing than not called have someone being victimized.”