UPDATED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 11:00 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
Police are searching for thieves cutting catalytic converters from parked cars.
In the last two months, more than two dozen cars have been cut in and around Madison, but police do not have any suspects. They expect the thieves are selling the parts for scrap for a fraction of their value.
Mostly Toyota vehicles are being targeted at lots including the Walmart in Monona, AMC in Fitchburg and UW-Madison campus.
Local mechanics and police say a similar wave struck in 2007. NBC 15 also reported other cases back in September this year.
The converters are valuable because they contain precious metals, including platinum and rhodium. Dean Ekstrom at Dean's Auto Repair says the Asian and European devices are usually more expensive because they contain more of the metals. A victim himself, he says a converter could be cut in less than two minutes.
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 1:56 p.m.
Press Release from the City of Madison:
MPD crime analysts have now identified 24 cases in the greater Madison area where thieves have stolen catalytic converters from parked vehicles since late December. The majority are Toyotas: 15 cases involve 4-Runners, 5 cases involve Tacoma pickup trucks.
Criminals have hit a variety of parking lots with those near businesses, apartment complexes, and workplaces being frequent targets.
Monona Police, Fitchburg Police, and UW-Madison Police are among other area law enforcement agencies that have reported cases. In Madison, all police districts, save for the South, have been hit.
Catalytic converters are emissions control devices that contain precious metals. Crooks cut them off and try to sell them to scrap yards.
Thieves tend to target SUVs and trucks because they are easier to crawl under. They seem to like some Toyota models for that reason, and also because there is reportedly a larger quantity of precious metals in certain catalytic converters.
Criminals can cut off, or unbolt them in a couple of minutes.
This is not a new crime, but there has been an uptick in numbers in recent months. The MPD will be working with other law enforcement agencies, and with area scrap yards, as ongoing efforts to identify suspects continue.
Anyone seeing suspicious activity taking place in parking lots, particularly if there is someone crawling under a vehicle, should call police.