Sun streams into the Plymouth Garage as Manager Dan Mauti stands under raised vehicles, pointing out catalytic converters that can sell for hundreds of dollars on the black market because of the precious metals they contain.
“On a V6, you’ll either have two or three,” Mauti said of the converters. “All the exhaust gases coming from the engine go through here first. This is like a filter for them. Inside here, there is a platinum base. That’s why people are stealing them.
“The bigger the converter, the more money it is. They’re going for the big ones. They’re going for the easy ones. They’re going for the easy targets.”
More bad news for car owners: Thieves wielding battery-operated hacksaws can remove catalytic converters containing precious palladium, rhodium and platinum in seconds.
And if you’re a victim of such a theft, you’ll know right away.
Those trying to drive their vehicles without their emission-control converters will notice the audible difference, with their vehicles emitting a sound similar to a gun firing repeatedly.
However, replacing the snatched part can cost anywhere from $500 to $4,000 at Plymouth Garage. Special grates operating like a bike lock and protecting the catalytic converter can cost an additional $300.
Still, thieves prowl.
Nationwide, there’s been an uptick in catalytic converter thefts, and Livonia is one of the worst-hit in the Hometown Life region in metro Detroit.
Livonia police reported an uptick in catalytic converter thefts around the start of October. There were several thefts within a one-week period.
Their year-to-date data showed 66 catalytic converter thefts for 2021, compared to 37 for the same period of 2020.
Larcenies from autos, another popular night crime involving thieves opening or breaking into car doors for raiding purposes, totaled 212 for 2021, compared to 127 for the same 2020 period.
Cathy Matta confirmed that waking up early Oct. 2 to find her catalytic converter stolen left her frightened.
She is considering more security cameras for her family’s home off Five Mile, just over a mile away from the Livonia police station.
“It’s scary,” Matta said. “This is a big issue.”
A resident living near West Chicago and Middlebelt Road said she feels upset and violated since her husband’s catalytic converter was taken.
Around the start of October, catalytic converter thieves struck residential addresses like the Canterbury Park Apartments near Farmington and Seven Mile roads and business addresses along Schoolcraft and Plymouth and Middlebelt roads.
For the residential incident on Hathaway, security camera footage caught a dark-colored sedan driving by slowly at about 3 a.m. It slowed down as it approached the victim’s Cadillac and returned minutes later and stopped next to the vehicle. Shortly thereafter, there’s the sound of a saw cutting metal.
“It takes these thieves only seconds to cut them off; their skill and speed with a cordless saw rivals that of any NASCAR pit crew,” Livonia Police Lt. Charles Lister said.
While the thefts seem like random crimes of opportunity, Lister advises car owners to keep their vehicles inside their closed garages if possible. Otherwise, driveways and well-lit areas are good options.
Lister advised car owners in public parking lots should park near building entrances or near access roads where there is more pedestrian and vehicle traffic.