KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Catalytic converters are disappearing across Knoxville. They are getting stolen around five times more than in previous years, according to authorities.
"The catalytic converter takes a lot of the toxins that are in the car engine and the the gases that the engine produces and filters them out," said Jason Humphrey, a mechanic in Knoxville.
In 2020 there were 79 reported catalytic converters stolen. In 2021, that number skyrocketed to 379. That's nearly a 500% increase. The thing that makes this car part so popular for thieves are the precious metals hidden inside.
Depending on the size of the converter, it can also cost a pretty penny to replace. Converters on diesel trucks are the most valuable.
Connie Hutchinson, the owner of Signs and Such, found out the hard way.
"It sounded just like open headers, meaning the muffler system was really loud. So upon further inspection, we found that the catalytic converter would have been stolen," Hutchinson said.
Thieves stole two catalytic converters from their work trucks.
"Then, we find out how expensive it was to replace these catalytic converters," Hutchinson said. "It was so expensive."
That theft cost their small business around $2,000 dollars. During that time, they were unable to complete any orders due to a lack of transportation. It created a ripple effect throughout the whole company.
Hutchinson said she never wanted it to happen again. She put up a security surveillance camera outside of the property.
"It's connected to my cell phone, so anywhere we're at, we can see our whole parking lot now," Hutchinson said.
According to KPD records, the majority of these thefts are happening at apartment complexes, and almost all of them happen at night.
"They're good, and when it's dark, they're even better," Hutchinson said.
It's a hard theft to stop, but police say some things can help prevent it from happening to you. Keeping your car in constant video surveillance is ideal. If you can't do that, try and park your car in well-lit, populated areas.