OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Paralleling a national trend, thieves stole catalytic converters Sunday from seven AT&T work vehicles in Oak Ridge, according to the city.
The theft amounted to an estimated loss of $21,000, according to city spokeswoman Lauren Gray.
The converters contain precious metals including platinum, palladium or rhodium. They can be sold for scrap.
The converters reduce the release of pollution emissions as part of the exhaust system.
Cities and businesses across the country have seen a rise in such thefts.
Oak Ridge police were alerted to the thefts Sunday at an AT&T field operations office.
Morristown police noticed a rash of such thefts late last year. And in June 2018, the Knoxville Police Department reported on a string of converter thefts from Hondas and Acuras.
"Officers believe that the suspect(s) cut through two fences to access the secure parking lot. The crime occurred sometime over the weekend. The Oak Ridge Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division is handling the investigation," Gray told 10News.
The devices are pretty easy to take, especially in vehicles that sit up higher above the ground, according to edmunds.com.
"Thieves can remove the unit within a minute or two," according to Edmunds.
SUVs and trucks are the most commonly targeted vehicles.
Devices such as clamps and cages are available on the aftermarket to help deter thefts, making it harder to remove converters from their housing. Like many thefts, the criminals are looking for the fastest and easiest access possible.
You'll know someone has taken your converter if there's suddenly a large, rumbling sound coming from under the vehicle when you start it up.