TAMPA, Fla. — The same day the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay kicked off its summer programs, the nonprofit said it discovered catalytic converters from four of its buses were stolen.
The buses are used to take kids to summer camp field trips, something the organization is bringing back for the first time since the pandemic.
“What went through my head is why would somebody do this to us? I mean we’re a nonprofit that serves kids and a lot of our community kids could really use our help and so I was really disappointed when I found out what happened,” said Keith Harris, the Vice President of operations for the organization.
Now the club is hoping the buses can be fixed in time, but Harris said each converter will cost around $1,400, and insurance doesn’t cover it.
“I mean we’re still suffering from the effects of the pandemic in terms of our charitable giving,” said Harris. “So while we do, we’re back up and running, we’re back operational we still suffer from it’s just been slow in getting back to levels we were pre-pandemic in terms of financial giving.”
The issue goes beyond the non-profit, though.
During the past year, police have seen an increase in catalytic converter thefts, said Tampa Master Police Officer Gregory Noble.
“The price of the precious metals inside of the honeycomb filter inside these catalytic converters have skyrocketed on the market,” said Noble. “I believe presently the price of rhodium is I think $23,000 an ounce on the market.”
Noble said they can be difficult to investigate because though someone is required to have proof of ownership to sell them at a scrap yard, they’re not marked with a VIN or serial number making them hard to track.
“Apartment complexes are being targeted and business yards are being targeted where there’s a lot of trucks, vans and vehicles that sit high off the ground,” said Noble.
While it can be hard to prevent these thefts, Noble recommends parking in a well-lit area where there are surveillance cameras or people who can see what’s happening.
“We’re trying just to send the message out that we are aware of certain individuals committing these crimes, we have made arrests during the last several weeks and we are also monitoring activity at scrap yards, to make sure that they are documenting the sales transactions involving these catalytic converters,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay is still enrolling kids for summer programs and welcome help in getting the buses repaired and helping kids.