Catalytic converter thefts on the rise in Horry County

Grand Strand Crime

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County police say thefts and attempted thefts of catalytic converters are up this year.

According to department estimates, there have been 102 reported cases accounting for 194 parts so far this year.

There were 81 reported cases in 2020 and just 25 in 2019.

The numbers reflect a 308% increase in cases from 2019 through just the first sixth months of this year.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill May 18 targeting catalytic converter thefts by requiring more identification and information in transactions involving used, detached converters as well as harsher penalties for theft.

Despite the push from lawmakers to clamp down on catalytic converter thefts, the number of reported cases in Horry County has continued to rise.

Van Sissell, Horry County Police Department sergeant in the property crimes criminal investigations division, said thieves work quickly. He said an expert converter thief can cut it out in just minutes.

“Pickup trucks — things that are easy to get under quickly because the easier they can get under them the faster they can do the work.”

Sissell said that while thieves normally target bigger vehicles, Horry County Police has seen the crime trickle down to smaller, more common cars.

“We are starting to see a few more personal vehicles where catalytic converters are being taken off of them: smaller vehicles like…Toyotas [and] Hondas,” Sissell said.

Because catalytic converters are not serialized, Sissell said they are difficult to track down.

“Out of those cases [from this year], we’ve probably made four arrests,” Sissell said. “As far as parts, we’ve recovered none of them.”

Catalytic converters are valuable to thieves because they have platinum, palladium, and rhodium inside. Horry County police say thieves scrap the part for quick cash.

Mechanic Chuck Brown has replaced stolen catalytic converters at least six times in the past month.

“The internal parts are so much and they cost so much,” Brown said. “They cut them off to get the money out of it, and it’s an easy way to make money.”

Brown said that while thieves make money scrapping the part, victims are the ones left with the bill.

“I mean some costs are like $1,500, and that’s just for the converter,” Brown said. “That’s not installation.”

The Horry County Police Department encourages people to be proactive against catalytic converter thefts and recommends people do some of the following.

  • Install an alarm system in the car.
  • Have a professional engrave the license plate or vehicle identification number on the converter.
  • Park in a garage or well lit area and have a camera facing any cars.
  • Have a professional install a catalytic converter protection device.
  • Contact HCPD if something looks suspicious by calling 843-248-1520.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending stories