Oxford police hope new program will deter catalytic converter thefts – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
OXFORD • Oxford police hope that 30 seconds spent under cars will stem a wave of catalytic converter thefts across the region.
The Oxford Police Department teamed up with Gateway Tire to begin engraving identifying marks on the devices that clean up automotive emissions. Over the last year, law enforcement officials across Northeast Mississippi have seen a dramatic increase in catalytic converter thefts as criminals hope to cash in on the precious metals inside the devices.
Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said his department is also working in tandem with area scrap yards to spot the marked car parts when they arrive and notify authorities.
“If they see the inscription or a place that has been filed off, then there is a good chance it was stolen,” McCutchen said. “It’s a way of taking money out of the criminals’ hands. If they see they can’t make any money off of (stealing catalytic converters), maybe they will move on.”
McCutchen said Oxford detectives began brainstorming for ways to get ahead of the criminals and came up with an idea. When they started looking for a place to partner with, Gateway jumped at the chance to pilot the program and help the community.
“We got hit a couple of years ago. Someone stole the converter off one of the company trucks out back,” said Gateway manager Kirk Jackson. “It is becoming a major problem. It can be a big hit to people who are already stretched financially.”
While the criminals might get a couple of hundred dollars for a stolen converter, the damage they cause trying to quickly saw off the items in the dead of night can cost the car owners $4,000 or more.
Keeping it simple
OPD detectives Mike Burks and Scott Hollowell researched the problem and found a host of ideas to prevent theft, including welding rebar and metal shields under vehicles. Instead, they opted to keep it simple and try to deter the thefts by using inscriptions.
Using a $50 rotary tool and an engraving bit, officers on Tuesday morning began engraving the tag number and the last several digits of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) onto each catalytic converter. Gateway employees will continue the practice going forward.
In police records, the tag number is linked to the vehicle, even if the car is sold and gets a new tag. Including the VIN helps tie the converters to each vehicle. So if a converter shows up at a scrap yard or metal recycling center with an inscription, it will be easy to determine if it was stolen.
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Although McCutchen said catalytic converter thieves haven’t hit Oxford has hard as some neighboring areas, he wanted to be proactive and stymie the thefts early.
“We hope other businesses will start doing this as well,” the police chief said. “I think once the word gets out, more (law enforcement) agencies will start encouraging this as well.”
Authorities are also reaching out to the scrap yards and recyclers to get them to buy into the program as well.
“It seems so simple, and it takes about 30 seconds to engrave each one,” Jackson said. “We’ve already got the car on the lift, so it only …….