Teaneck police who've been prowling local streets overnight looking for catalytic converter thieves caught one in the act, authorities said.
Sgt. Jason Hosey was on a special pre-dawn detail looking for bandits swiping the devices when he spotted a man in a vehicle stopped on State Street that had what turned out to be a paper towel covering the rear license plate, Deputy Police Chief Andrew R. McGurr said
It was enough to raise suspicions, given that it was nearly 4 a.m., he said.
The driver, Nixon Francisco-Colon, 33, of Englewood, claimed to be a mechanic, the deputy chief said. He told the sergeant the vehicle belonged to a customer and that he was in the area to pick up a friend, McGurr said.
Francisco-Colon had with him a floor jack, jack stand and battery-powered reciprocating saw -- including extra blades and battery pack -- as well as flashlights, disposable gloves, and a baseball bat.
“Additionally, rust and residue, which appeared to be from vehicle exhaust pipes, were located at the bottom of the trunk,” McGurr said.
Recent media reports have claimed that claim catalytic converter thefts are increasing, but it's really nothing new.
Thieves have been cutting out converters and selling them for scrap for years. The explosion of home security video has only made it more visible.
The highly-prized emissions-control devices help remove nitrogen oxide and other potentially toxic pollutants from a vehicle’s exhaust while reducing engine noise. Their honeycomb interiors are coated with a trio of precious metals -- rhodium, palladium and platinum – that have become black market prizes.
Rhodium alone can sell for upwards of $20,000 an ounce, over 10 times more than gold.
For thieves, it could mean from $50 to several hundred dollars from a chop shop or other buyer who resells the converter to a recycler. Some recyclers themselves even advertise on Facebook.
For motorists, it could mean a replacement bill of up to $2,000.
Francisco-Colon admitted that he and an accomplice had planned to steal catalytic converters but that the sergeant caught him before they could, said McGurr, the deputy police chief.
Francisco-Colon was charged with conspiracy to commit theft and attempted theft before being released pending a Sept. 28 first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack.
TIPS to help prevent catalytic converter theft (courtesy of Allstate):
Install an anti-theft device;
Use motion sensor lights and cameras;
Etch your license plate number or VIN onto the part, which could alert a scrap dealer that it's stolen and identify you as the owner;
Park in well-lit areas close to public entrances.
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