10 catalytic converters stolen from Polk County school board vehicles

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BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – As catalytic converter thefts increase, Polk County school officials say a recent burglary has cost the district “valuable resources.”

“These vehicle parts are expensive and their replacement costs valuable time and money resources, which could be spent to support our students and schools,” Polk County Public Schools spokesperson Kyle Kennedy wrote, in a press release. “It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with this kind of theft and criminal activity. “

According to the Bartow Police Department, a thief stole the catalytic converters of 10 school vehicles from a warehouse on Highway 60 in Bartow in the early hours of Sunday, November 28.

Security video shows a person walking around work vans.

Source – Bartow Police Department

Police said the person gained access by drilling a hole in a chain link fence.

“There was a hole dug and we had 10 catalytic converters removed from our vehicles there. Unfortunately, it seems like a trend that’s happening in South Florida, but it’s spread a lot more than that, ”Bartow Police Captain Lauro Diaz said.

Catalytic converters are used to control exhaust emissions and are located between the engine and the muffler of a vehicle. Thieves can steal converters within minutes and sell precious metals for a high price.

Experts say it’s obvious to them when someone describes catalytic converter theft.

“Sometimes they don’t even realize that’s what happened. They are getting in the car. They turn the key and they turn it on and it starts like a dragster. It’s just loud, ”said Joe Sulins, owner of Main Street Auto & Tire.

He says when customers arrive with a missing catalytic converter, he sends them to an exhaust specialist.

“Making a repair can easily cost anywhere from $ 700 to $ 800 to replace it, so it’s a high cost to the public when it needs to be repaired,” Sulins said.

While some may see a downside in sharing information about the location and value of catalytic converters, Captain Daiz says the real way to prevent crime is to arrest those responsible.

“It’s no secret what a catalytic converter is. It’s no secret how difficult it is to remove the vehicle, but what is a secret is who the criminal element is, ”said Captain Diaz.

Police are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact Det. Lewis (863) 534-0404.

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