What's behind recent thefts of catalytic converters?

Parked cars at the University of Central Florida campus are sitting targets right now, according to law enforcement. 

UCF Police are investigating a series of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in parking garages and lots on their main campus.  In less than 24 hours, thieves stole catalytic converters off of six different vehicles, police said.  

"Well, it happens every time precious metal prices go up. They steal them and scrap them," said Jerry Sheppard, owner of Jerry’s MB Service.  "Rhodium, titanium, palladium…big words. There’s very small amounts in there, but it’s very valuable," Jerry explained. 

Sheppard said for a thief who knows what they’re doing, it wouldn’t take long to steal catalytic converters.  

RELATED: UCF Police warns of more catalytic converter thefts on campus

"It depends on the model and basically the accessibility on the car. But basically if it’s exposed underneath the car and the pipes are exposed with a battery operated saw you could cut it off in five minutes. Easy," the mechanic explained. 

And it’s not just here.  It’s an issue nationwide.  Our sister station in Los Angeles shared video of a ring of armed men stealing catalytic converters off of cars in Southern California.  One report states they being stolen in under 60 seconds.  

"You can just put a jack under it, just lift it up and chop it off," Sheppard added.  

He works exclusively on Mercedes models and showed FOX 35 News a brand new catalytic converter that sells for around $6,000 new.  He said at a scrapyard would offer any were from $150 to hundreds of dollars for used catalytic converters.  It all depends on size, shape and how much of three precious metals are inside.  

"The bad guys know the easy targets," Jerry said.

A 19-year-old UCF student told campus police he parked his car around 4:30 Thursday morning on the 4th floor of the parking garage on Mensa Lane.  When he got in his car to leave for work at 1 p.m. that afternoon, his truck was unusually loud, when he looked underneath both catalytic converters were gone. 

Sheppard recommends parking your car next a curb to make it difficult for thieves to get under your car.  He said parking over a puddle could make the bad guys think twice about targeting your car too. 

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