HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – Catalytic converter thefts have been an issue across Cabell County for almost two years, and recently, the issue has seen an uptick.

County officials say these thefts fall under the category of larceny, and since January, for the county, there have been around 1,500 larceny claims with around 256 of those claims due to catalytic converter thefts.  

Recap of what’s happening:

“Inside a catalytic converter, all it is, is pretty much a pattern formed into a honeycomb shape. So, it captures small particles to lesson the smog pollutions/emissions of the vehicle is what it’s designed to do. And once these people steal a converter, they’ll take it to a buyer or recycling center, and the recycling center or buyer will send it to a smelter and resell it,” says Detective Hatfield.

The converters can be sold for between $20-$30 (on the low end) up to thousands of dollars, which is why they’re seen as a hot commodity.

Officials say these robberies happen at random, and there’s really no trend. They say they’ve seen cases in populated place like the mall and Walmart and unpopulated places like residential areas.

Can my car still drive without the converter?

“No they cannot. If they will start, it’ll sound like a tank. But most of the time, they’ll fire up, it’ll not start. It’ll throw engine codes, or it’ll sound like a tank,” he says.

Hatfield says the converters have sensors, and if the car can’t read the sensor, the car will not start.

What can I do to protect my converter?

“The only thing you can do is put it in a garage. If you have some place you can put it. They hit places in residential areas. They hit places in store parking lots. I mean, they hit them in the middle of daylight. Broad daylight,” explained Hatfield.

He says there’s no way to trace these converters to the vehicles because there’s nothing like a VIN number that would identify exactly where the converter was stolen from.

If you notice a converter robbery or have any information on prior robberies, you are asked to contact the sheriff’s office or call 911.