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Catalytic converter thefts continue in WNY, as thieves target specific type of vehicle

Catalytic Converter Theft
Posted at 7:25 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 19:29:11-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Early Monday morning Nadia Pizarro said both catalytic converters were stolen from her Toyota Prius, which was parked on the street. She first noticed it hours later when she got in her car.

"It sounded like a helicopter was under my car," said Pizarro. "Felt very traumatic that someone did that in front of my house."

Neighbors told Pizarro that they saw two men in hoodies come and go in less than five minutes. Surveillance cameras show a light colored SUV fleeing around 4:15 AM.


Pizarro filed a police report, and had her car fixed for $1,300. Unfortunately she had to pay it all out of pocket, because her Prius is not fully insured.

"If you have full coverage, generally it is covered through insurance," said Melissa LaCount, owner of 311 Auto in the Town of Tonawanda. "If you don't, and just have liability, like in the case with Nadia, it's going to have to come out of her pocket."

LaCount said in the last year 311 Auto has seen at least one customer per week come in for a stolen catalytic converter.

"Generally it's a Toyota Prius, or hybrid vehicle," explained LaCount.

Hybrid and electric vehicles have converters that have more valuable metals in them, making them a bigger target for thieves.

Pizarro said the mechanic who fixed her vehicle, said another woman was getting her car repaired after her catalytic converter was also stolen on the West Side.

Just recently a a Stockton man was charged with stealing a catalytic converter from a driveway.

RELATED: Brocton man arrested after catalytic converter cut from car in driveway

Converters can sell for anywhere from $5 to $500, according to Vice President of Metalico Buffalo, Zachary Zelawski. Metalico buys and sells scrap metal, but in a responsible way.

"If there was something brought in that fits the description of something they're looking for, we can help," said Zelawski about working with law enforcement.

In Monroe County, the sheriff's office recently established a task force with scrap metal companies and other local law enforcement to help catch criminals.

Recently, Zelawsi said law enforcement came in to inspect catalytic converters that people brought during a certain time frame. Zelwaski said when the converters are stolen, law enforcement can match up the car with the angle that the converter was cut at.

There is also etching technology that can help track these valuable converters. Zelawski said Metalico is looking into that to help track stolen catalytic converters.

Pizarro said she hopes her story will help people look over their vehicle's insurance, and be on the lookout for this criminal activity.

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