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Caught on camera: Thieves saw catalytic converter off local businessman’s truck

GRPD has seen a “significant uptick” in thefts of catalytic converters, not only in Grand Rapids, but county-wide.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Thieves are going around, sawing off a critical piece of people’s vehicles, and it could leave you with a toxic car. 

A local business owner had this happen to him, and he caught it all on his security camera.

Ellis McClain, the owner of Ellis Construction, said the thieves appear to have the process down. 

“He was under there for probably eight minutes,” McClain said. 

In the security video you can see and hear one person doing the damage, another hurrying them along, and another staying in their car ready to get away. 

“The tools of the trade are a flashlight and a reciprocating saw,” said Sgt. John Wittkowski with the Grand Rapids Police Department. 

The thieves stole the catalytic converter from one of McClain’s work trucks, which was the perfect target. 

“What thieves are looking for are vehicles that are secluded,” said Sgt. Wittkowski.

He said they’ve gone after vehicles that sit out for a period of time, like church vans, cars at auto repair shops, car rental companies and even people’s homes.

“I've been here ten years and I've never had any vandalism, no theft,” McClain said. 

The catalytic converter cleans your exhaust. Without one, you’d likely fail an emissions test. 

“But the noise and the smell are the big ones, the big giveaways.” said Sgt. Wittkowski.

He said it’s something that’s happening much more lately, around both Grand Rapids and Kent County as a whole. 

“If you're selling a catalytic converter for scrap you can make upwards of $200, due to the precious metals,” said Sgt. Wittkowski.

But this isn’t a new problem, especially during the winter months. 

“With less people on the street, with windows closed, you're going to have the ability as a thief to get away with this much more easily,” said Sgt. Wittkowski.

Plus, there’s no serial number on a catalytic converter.  

“So there's no real way to trace these back, other than us receiving reports of them being stolen,” said Sgt. Wittkowski.

GRPD has not yet made any arrests this winter for these types of thefts. 

“My frustration was someone violated me by coming on my property, removing something,” McClain said. “Then the other thing was the expense of getting that truck repaired.”

To help keep your car safe, Sgt. Wittkowski suggests parking it in a garage if you can, or finding a well-lit area. 

Although the police department has seen thieves target all types of vehicles, hybrid, foreign and lifted cars, like SUVs and trucks, might be targeted more. 

Sgt. Wittkowski also said if this happens to you, be sure to report it to police. 

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