By Andrea Gable
Late last month, five local businesses fell victim to a rash of thefts that left an estimated $26,000 worth of property damage in its wake. On the night of Oct. 25, suspects stole the catalytic converters from 18 cars parked at AutoZone, Advanced Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and B.I. Production Works on Eatonton Road.
According to reports, employees at AutoZone, Advanced Auto Parts and O’Reilly Auto Parts discovered the catalytic converters had been cut and removed from five different delivery vehicles. At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the converters had been removed from three of the company’s vehicles. A customer who had left his own vehicle in the parking lot and rented a vehicle, returned to find the converter missing from his personal vehicle. At another local transportation company nearby, owner Ben Patel reported missing converters on nine of his Mercedes vans.
The report states that security footage shows a small, silver or white sedan pulling into the parking lot of AutoZone and backing into the parking space next to one of the delivery vehicles.
The previous week, on Oct. 19, Greene County Sheriff’s Office reported the theft of several catalytic converters from vehicles at its County Camp facility on W. Broad St. and at the nearby Transportation Period dealership.
Det. Andre Johnson with Madison Police Department said he has reviewed video footage from the dealership that appears to show three males entering the area on the night of the thefts.
“Do we have connection? Maybe,” said Det. Johnson. “We can’t say it’s the same people at this point and we think they just hit another city, but we have no leads to help us solve this.”
Det. Johnson said police are working to identity the suspects on the video and are unable to determine at this point whether this is a separate, local incident or part of a wider, regional spree.
“I would think they’re not from here, but just passing through,” said Det. Johnson. “They could be from anywhere.”
Aside from answering the question of “Who?” Det. Johnson is also working on the “Why?” He said catalytic converters contain small amounts of precious metals, including platinum, which could be valuable in the scrap metal market, but regulations are in place at many metal yards to prevent the selling of stolen scrap metal.
“We did find out that you have to have some kind of mechanic certification to sell catalytic converters to scrap places and some won’t even accept them,” said Johnson. “We have yet to get a definitive answer as to what the significance is and why they’re taking them.”
He said the amount of platinum is small, but could be the reason behind the thefts.
“Is that the real reason?” asked Det. Johnson. “I don’t know that until I catch one of these guys and ask them.”
Contact Det. Johnson at the Madison Police Department with any information related to the incidents at (706) 342-1275.