Car Crimes Put Community on Alert

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ROCKY RIVER, Ohio-- Someone is stealing car parts right off of parked vehicles in a local community. Police are now trying to track down the vandals.

"So I came out to my car and started it and it was very loud," said theft victim Maria Emery.

Emery says on the morning of February 5, she instantly knew something was wrong with her 2003 Pontiac Grand Am when she tried to go to work. She had parked it hours earlier in her usual parking spot at her apartment complex in Rocky River.

"When I turned the car on, I thought there was a bomb in there. It just was so loud; the muffler was so loud; I thought somebody had taken the muffler," she said.

No one took the muffler, but they did take the catalytic converter, an emissions control device that's part of the exhaust system. She took it to two mechanics; the first estimate to fix it was $1200. She eventually found someone to do it much cheaper.

"They put it up on the lift and they said somebody did a clean cut of your catalytic converter. They didn't even use a hacksaw; it was something that was a clean cut," said Emery.

"They have a guy that drives the car, who's like the getaway driver and he looks out for the police or other people watching. The other guy probably climbs out with the battery-powered saw, cuts it off and they're probably gone in 10 or 20 seconds," said Rocky River police Lt. Larry Stalter.

Rocky River police say since February, thieves have stolen catalytic converters from seven vehicles in town.  The other six were all Hondas, five of them specifically Honda Accords and one Honda Odyssey van. They have been stolen mainly along Detroit Road, from condominium complexes, businesses and the latest was Monday from the stadium parking lot at Rocky River High School.

"We're pretty sure that these catalytic converter thieves are probably heroin addicts looking for the quick theft and then they go on and scrap it at a junkyard to get their money for the bags of heroin," said Lt. Stalter.

"Am I sad it happened to me? Absolutely, because I was inconvenienced and it was money out of my pocket," said Emery.

Emery said the theft was not covered by her insurance policy.

Rocky River police said they have stepped up patrols around town, but said the thieves are so fast, they may be hard to catch.

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