By Heather Ruppe
Thieves stealing the catalytic converters from cars in Colleton County has been an ongoing problem for more than a year. However, local authorities say this type of crime slowly starts to decrease throughout Colleton’s footprint.
In 2021, 91 reported cases of catalytic converters were reported stolen off of vehicles in Colleton County. This is based on records and data provided to this newspaper by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
From January 1st through July 31st of this year, there have been 34 reported cases of catalytic converters being stolen in Colleton County, according to the sheriff’s office.
That is a substantial decrease in a crime that creates many problems for the victim.
“In addition to our deputies’ proactive policing, I believe there is an additional decrease due to the recent law that passed now, making the theft of converters a felony, whereas before, it was a misdemeanor,” said Colleton County Sheriff Buddy Hill.
A catalytic converter is a “critical emissions-control device” that reduces toxic gases in a car’s engine, and it’s also a required element to make a vehicle operable. Thieves began to steal this car part and sell it to local junk yards and scrap dealers for cash.
The theft of these converters from vehicles began to spike in Colleton in December 2019. The sheriff’s office has made dozens of arrests in these cases. Nearly all those arrested for stealing catalytic converters have been residents of Colleton County.
“In many cases, the thefts are related to groups of individuals working together,” said Hill.
Those arrested have been charged with petit larceny, tampering with a motor vehicle, breaking into a motor vehicle, obtaining nonferrous metals unlawfully, and/or permits to transport and sell. These charges carry fines and jail time.
Tips to protect yourself
According to Hill, Colleton residents can protect themselves from becoming victims of this type of crime. “This particular crime presents an array of complications when protecting one’s property. First, removing a catalytic converter takes the average offender less than one minute,” he said. “We have incidents of thefts occurring at all times of the day and night, and, secondly, thefts can happen anywhere.
“We have victims that have reported thefts anywhere from crowded parking lots at shopping centers to remote residential locations,” he said.
Park vehicles in a secure garage or fenced-in area when possible.
If no secure facility is accessible, ensure the parking area is well lit.
Install security cameras to capture illegal activities or suspicious persons.
Etch a vehicle identification number or license plate ID in the converter.
Report suspicious person(s) or vehicle(s) to law enforcement.