PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in Tampa Bay; suspects have been caught repeatedly on camera breaking into commercial properties.
The National Insurance Crime Information Bureau said catalytic converter thefts have more than tripled since 2019.
Thieves target businesses after closing
“Broad daylight, wearing slippers, sliding under our fence,” Craig Boyle said, describing suspects caught on camera stealing a catalytic converter from a Ford F-250 work truck parked on his company’s lot.
“They look like they’re in their early 20s,” he said.
The burglary took place at Boyle’s Aluminum and Screening in Port Richey at 6:25 p.m. on July 12.
“My little baby here, she got her little heart cut out of her,” said Howard Underwood, who was assigned the truck for work.
“I go fire it up, and I’m like, oh my God, we got hit,” he said.
Surveillance video shows three suspects pulling up to the gate minutes after closing time in a Nissan and an older model Mercedes.
“He repositioned his car to intentionally block the view from the street so nobody driving down the street could see him climbing under our car,” Boyle said.
“He went over there… chop, chop, chop,” Underwood said, showing how the thin suspect climbed under the fence to gain entry to the property.
The camera captures audio of the catalytic being removed with a battery-powered saw.
“You hear that cutting and I kind of cringed a little, to be honest with you,” Boyle said. “And to think, they’re doing a lot of these. “
Next door, Grass Monkey pest control and lawn service was targeted weeks earlier.
“Nineteen they got from our neighbor. Shut them down for three to four days,” Boyle said.
Law enforcement agencies say thefts are increasing in Tampa Bay
Law enforcement agencies say catalytic converter thefts are rising in cities and counties throughout the Tampa Bay area.
“Your average catalytic converter theft usually takes about a minute and a half to commit,” said Tampa Police Officer Greg Noble, who describes the thefts as organized crime.
Noble said Florida law prohibits metal recyclers from buying catalytic converters without proof of ownership.
He said some people aren’t playing by the rules.
Officers arrested an unlicensed dealer last year who advertised he was paying cash for catalytic converters and seized his paperwork.
“It showed that he had made well over $800,000 in about a year’s time just with the receipts we found in the home,” Noble said.
“Big money. Big time paycheck”
A salvage yard employee who works for a metals dealer outside the Tampa Bay Region told us there’s a big market for catalytic converters.
He said catalytic converters for domestic pick-up trucks can command prices of more than $200.
Those parts on large trucks can sell for up to $1,200.
“Big money. Big time paycheck. Sell them to whoever. Melt them down and get the internals out of them,” he said.
Internal components contain small amounts of rare precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium, which sells for $15,000 dollars an ounce — about nine times the price of gold.
“Anyone has a fleet of trucks; they’re definitely aiming for this,” he said.
Drew Park, an industrial complex near Tampa International Airport, has been especially hard hit in recent months.
“Three occurred over here, one being right next to my office up front,” said Joe Asbury, a manager at Jeff’s Transmissions on West Osbourne Ave.
Catalytic converters were recently stolen from seven customer vehicles on his lot.
It was the third time his business was hit this year.
“I want to say this last one was in the tune of about $8,000, which hurts. Especially a small business like us,” he said.
A block away, brazen thieves hopped over the fence at a security company in broad daylight.
A camera captured crystal clear images of three suspects, including a man holding a battery-powered utility saw.
Three blocks away, 15 catalytic converters were stolen from U-Haul trucks at a maintenance facility, despite a barbed wire fence.
The problem has become so bad that U-Haul started installing metal covers around catalytic converters to make them harder to steal.
Back in Port Richey, Boyle is hoping someone will recognize the suspects in the video and help police identify and arrest them.
He’s offering a $1,000 cash reward.
If you know who’s responsible for that crime, contact Officer Donald Howard at (727) 816-1919.
“Somebody’s gonna recognize the guys that are doing it. And we just need to get them off the street,” Boyle said.
Police say you should park your car in a garage or other secure area if at all possible and should consider engraving your VIN number on your catalytic converter to make it more difficult to sell at metal recycling operations.
Crimestoppers of Tampa Bay is also offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspects who burglarized that Drew Park security company.
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