Thieves are targeting catalytic converters on vehicles in large parking lots, police said Tuesday.
The perpetrators are crawling under vehicles — particularly SUVs — and using reciprocating saws to cut loose the catalytic converters, Capt. Gavin Seiler said. They then take apart the converters to get at the platinum inside.
Metal from a single catalytic converter can be worth several hundred dollars, he said.
“We’re not only seeing it here in Wichita,” Seiler said. “It is a widespread problem.”
There have been 19 cases of catalytic converter thefts so far this year, he said, including three since Nov. 20. One occurred Monday.
Many have occurred at Towne East Square, Seiler said. Thieves target mall parking lots because there are a lot of vehicles there and it’s easier for them to go unnoticed.
“It is very difficult to stop,” Seiler said, because it only takes a couple of minutes for a skilled thief to crawl under the vehicle and cut the converter loose. Seiler said residents who see someone under a vehicle at the mall should call 911 right away.
“They’re not under there checking their oil,” he said. “They’re doing something else.
“We’ll be glad to come out and check them out.”