LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Campus police departments from three Arkansas colleges are working together after a rash of thefts of catalytic converters from nearly a dozen cars last week.
The part uses precious metals to help control emissions from a car's exhaust system. That makes it like a valuable piece of jewelry just inches from the pavement.
"It really sounded like a Harley, so it kind of scared us and we both jumped," said Brittany Milam when she and her twin sister Bailey, turned on their car last Friday on the Arkansas Tech campus in Russellville.
The revving of a Harley sounds cool, but it's not the sound you expect from a Honda Accord.
Police at the University of Central Arkansas and Harding University are also investigating thefts.
"College campuses, hospitals, airplane parking lots, anywhere," said Justin Evins, a welder at Discount Muffler in North Little Rock. "People are getting really bold with it."
To most drivers, the most identifiable part of the exhaust systems is the muffler. When that goes out, their car gets really loud.
But to thieves, when they think of the exhaust system, they think of the catalytic converter because it's literally a pot of gold.
"In the padding, you can see little metal flakes," Evins said."There's platinum and gold in there."
"They get out a battery powered reciprocating saw," said Bob Yagos, owner of JB's Salvage Yard in Jacksonville. "All they have to do is crawl under your car and in two minutes they got your converter."
Yagos won't buy catalytic converters and most reputable junkyards and metal recyclers won't either.
He said there's little drivers can do to stop a thief from targeting your converter, but he does think market forces might help.
"Prices of converters right now are pretty much at the bottom," he said. "It's really kind of shocking that they've started stealing them again."
Other common sense ways to keep your converter safe are to park in well-lit, active parking lots. If you have a garage, use it, and always arm the car alarm.