Church vans vandalized among wave of catalytic-converter thefts in Durham

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Police are warning people about an unusual crime wave.

They say thieves are stealing catalytic converters from vehicles.

Though it can happen to anyone's vehicle at home, police say it's been more common in commercial-type vans and buses.

Several weeks ago, ABC11 highlighted the generosity of the Durham community after two buses from the Boys & Girls Club had been victimized.

They are part of the more than 40 thefts that have happened since the start of the year, according to police. Through this time last year, only 30 had been taken.

Police suggest parking your vehicles in well-lit areas or in the view of a surveillance camera.

Yates Baptist Church was a victim last week along with First Cavalry Baptist Church.

"Obviously we're trying to participate in community goodwill on a spiritual mission," said Christopher Ingram, senior pastor at Yates Baptist Church. "In one sense, we like to be available to the neighborhood but as we do, we're also rendered vulnerable."

Thieves were able to take the converters off their bus but not the van, though they tried. The bus is being repaired.

"Any time that our mission -- that our purpose -- gets hindered, it's frustrating," said Pastor Ingram. "You wish people would be on board in a community as wide-ranging as this. There are those though that are going to take advantage of that availability and that accessibility."

The converters are used for emissions control: they filter and clean up what's coming out of an exhaust pipe.

"When the price of those precious metals go up, they become very desirable to folks who want to scrap them," said Corporal Tom Scozzafava of the Durham Police Department. "Catalytic converters are not typically marked: they don't have serial numbers or parts numbers or even manufacturer designations so it's difficult to trace back to that particular vehicle."

Police say they check scrapyards, but it's challenging considering the converters don't have serial numbers on them.

First Cavalry has since moved its buses from a lower parking lot. Yates Baptist said it has dealt with this issue before.

"I wish people would respect what we're trying to do, of course," Pastor Ingram said.
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