BUCKS COUNTY >> From Bristol to Lower Makefield, Bucks County is seeing a sudden rise in the theft of catalytic converters.

As the price of precious metals continues to rise, so does the number of vehicle catalytic converter thefts, according to insurance and law enforcement data.

While most vehicles are at risk, the owners of Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, Mazdas, SUVs and truck are especially urged to take precautions.

Converters can be sold on the auto parts black market or sold to recycling centers for the metals, including platinum, rhodium and palladium, which are used in the manufacturing of the catalytic converters.

The metals are expensive, and thieves sell the converters to scrap yards for several hundred dollars per piece, depending on the size of the converter and the current rate on the metals inside it.

It can cost a vehicle owner on average up to $2000 to replace a catalytic converter, and it is illegal to drive your car without one. The resulting gap in your exhaust system also makes the car run poorly until it is fixed.

Thefts have been reported in recent weeks in Bristol Borough, Lower Makefield and Newtown Townships.

In Bristol Borough, police are investigating numerous thefts which occured Feb. 9 and 10 at the Selecto Supermarket, 320 Pond Street; the 600 block of Corson Street; and at Canal & Lafayette streets. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Bristol Borough Police at 215-788-7813, ext. 2443

In Newtown Township, police are investigating several catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in the area of the Newtown Business Commons. Subjects were captured on surveillance video in the early morning hours of Feb. 17.

In Lower Makefield, a vehicle owner reported that unknown person(s) removed a catalytic converter and O2 sensors from their vehicle while they were in a store in the 1600 block of Big Oak Road. The theft took place on Feb. 17.

The rate of catalytic converter theft varies depending on the current prices of the metals inside it. Price increases typically result in an increase in thefts. Thieves look for easy targets when it comes to catalytic converter theft, and a few simple steps help make your car or SUV a less likely target.

- Always park in well-lit areas when possible. If you have a personal garage, keep your car in the garage with the door closed when the vehicle is not in use.

- Park close to a building entrance or to the nearest access road when parking in a public lot. This is due to the increased amount of pedestrian traffic in those areas.

- Security devices are available that attach to the converter, making it harder to steal. Having the converter welded in place also makes it more difficult to remove. If you have a security system on your car, calibrate it so vibration sets it off. This ensures the alarm activates if a thief tries to saw off the converter.

- Video surveillance around your garage or driveway is also useful if you have the budget for it. Engrave your VIN number onto your catalytic converter to make it easier to identify in case it does get stolen. Etching is a barrier that can prevent the equipment from being stolen and also can help in arresting and prosecuting such theft. Stealing the property is a felony. VIN etching can make the converter, and possibly the vehicle, far less desirable to steal. Owners are often out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for their deductible and others are out repair costs to replace this equipment

Thieves cut or unbolt converters from the vehicle's exhaust system often in parking structures and park 'n ride lots and also at night.

Symptoms of Catalytic Converter Theft

If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll notice a loud rumbling or roaring sound as soon as you turn on the engine. This gets louder when you hit the gas. The exhaust is not working properly, so the vehicle also drives rougher than usual, often with a sense of sputtering as you change speed. Go to the back of the car and look underneath.

The catalytic converter is a round canister that connects two pieces of piping in the exhaust. You will see a gaping space in the middle of your exhaust if the converter is missing, and you will likely see signs of the piping being cut away.

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