'Crime of opportunity': Thieves steal catalytic converter from emergency vehicle in Montco

"Daytime, nighttime, it doesn't matter, it's a crime of opportunity," said Cinnaminson Police Chief Richard Calabrese.
CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Police across Pennsylvania and New Jersey are warning drivers about a rash of catalytic converter thefts in 2022.

In Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, investigators say a thief targeted a marked township car on February 11, sawing off the catalytic converter in less than a minute. The incident was caught on surveillance video.

Police there say this crime is happening almost daily, as do investigators in Cinnaminson Township, New Jersey.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia police recommend catalytic converter theft prevention devices to deter criminals

"Daytime, nighttime, it doesn't matter, it's a crime of opportunity," said Chief Richard Calabrese of the Cinnaminson Township Police Department.

After several thefts over the weekend, he put a call out to his community for people to register their surveillance cameras. He says it's one way you can help solve these crimes.

"Register with your local police department, let them have access when they need it, and if you see something say something. Nothing is too suspicious, that's what we're here for," he said.

He added these crimes are happening all around you. Philadelphia police say they've recorded 728 catalytic converter thefts so far in 2022, from all types of vehicles.

"Make no mistake, there is no specific vehicle whatsoever; it takes less than 60 seconds to take a catalytic converter from under the car," said Calabrese.

The prevalence of the crime is one reason NE Phila Connected, a neighborhood group formed during the pandemic, is trying to intervene.

"The price on the precious metals are not going anywhere and it's only going to increase with the current financial situation in the world," said Roman Zhukov, the group's co-founder.

He helped set up an initiative called Cat Cut, where there are patterning with auto body shops, to paint the catalytic converter, put a sticker on the car, and engrave the car's VIN.

"So if it's going to pop up in a scrap yard or somebody's trunk, it's going to be easily traceable to the owner," he said.

The group says it has 20 auto body shops in Philadelphia and Bucks County involved in the program and more than 200 neighbors have registered their cars.

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