Police warning: Rise in vehicle parts thefts seen throughout Butler County

Do you recognize this vehicle driven by suspects in rash of catalytic converter thefts on Terry Drive? MIDDLETOWN DIVISION OF POLICE

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Do you recognize this vehicle driven by suspects in rash of catalytic converter thefts on Terry Drive? MIDDLETOWN DIVISION OF POLICE

Police departments throughout Butler County has seen increases in metal thefts, particularly those of vehicle catalytic converters, as the price of some metals has risen in the past few years.

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The latest incident in Middletown caused police to post a message on social media asking for public assistance in identifying suspects.

The suspects took seven catalytic converters from vehicles parked in storage businesses on Oct, 18. A person at A&A Services caught the suspects in the act, and they ran after a round of rock salt was fired at them, said Det. Brook McDonald.

The converters are expensive to replace and have a high price tag to scrap, according to Major Scott Reeve. But, detectives do not believe they are being scrapped locally.

“We have a good relationship with Cohn Brothers and that’s not where they are taking them,” Reeve said.

Catalytic converters part of a vehicle’s exhaust system and have been required on vehicles sold in the United States since the 1970s. They contain metals including palladium and platinum, which makes them a hot item for resale on the black market, according to police.

Reeve said the price of palladium has increased from $473 an ounce in 2016 to $2,400 now.

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McDonald said catalytic converter thefts have increased as much as 10 times this year, and it is happening in cities throughout the county.

It is difficult to track the stolen converters because they don’t have serial numbers, and in some cases vehicle owners don’t even know the part is gone until they drive the car and notice it is not running properly. Repairing the vehicle from the theft can cost thousands of dollars.

Hamilton Police Sgt. Rich Burkhardt said there has also been an increase there. He said some Toyota models are targeted.

Likewise in Fairfield, where there has been an uptick in recent months, and the suspects are operating in broad daylight, according to Officer Doug Day.

“We’ve had some in crowded parking lots. Jungle Jim’s and places like that," Day said. “(Suspects) do call attention to themselves just walking around a parking lot. When they find a car the can get under and most are quick, some can do it in a minute or so.”

There are devices that can be ordered online to protect against catalytic converter theft, but most people don’t think about it or want the expense, police said.

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