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Police investigate surge in catalytic converter thefts

A thief, or a small group of them, drives up to a South Kitsap car, slides under with a power metal saw and cuts the catalytic converter out of the exhaust system within a minute or so. The robber then sells the converter for about $100 at a scrap metal yard.

It’s happened at least 14 times in South Kitsap since June.

“It’s a quick and easy way for someone to steal something and turn it over for a profit,” Port Orchard Police Commander Geoffrey Marti said.

The thieves seem to be stealing the converters during the day, in public parking lots like those at apartment complexes, downtown and at the high school.

“It’s really a blatant act,” Marti said. “They don’t act like they’re doing anything wrong.”

People have seen the thefts, he said, but didn’t think to call the police.

It would be really helpful, he said, if the public helped them catch the robber in the act, he said.

“If they see someone sliding around under someone’s car, they need to call the police. They’re not just there working on a car. They’re stealing,” he said. “I would love for the public to become aware of this problem and catch these guys in the process.”

For now, police are working with scrap metal dealers to try to identify and apprehend the thieves.

“If someone’s bringing in multiple catalytic converters, it’s pretty obvious that those are stolen items,” Marti said. “We’re identifying people and trying to find people.”

Police have “a pretty good idea” of who the suspects are, he said, because of collaboration with the scrap metal yards.

“We are working that angle and hoping to make some arrests,” he said.

It would be ideal, though, for the public to help police arrest a suspect committing the crime.

It should also be fairly easy, he said, considering the obviousness and frequency of the incidents.

“To have 14 incidents in two months is incredible,” he said, “and those are just the ones that are reported — some people may not be reporting it.”

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