Posted: Nov 13, 2012 9:04 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2012 10:10 PM
HARLINGEN - Precious metals in catalytic converters have turned the automotive emission-control part into a prime target for thieves, officials said.
Thieves are targeting companies with fleets of vehicles, police said. The most recent thefts happened at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Harlingen.
USDA employees knew something was wrong the moment they started the engines on the vehicles. This is not the first time thieves have targeted the agency's vehicles.
"We've had actually four breaks-in to our vehicle lot ... That's probably 16 to 20 catalytic converters," USDA State Plant Director Stuart Kuehn said.
Kuehn said the thefts happened Monday. Thieves cut a fence to get to the vehicles. They took five catalytic converters.
"Each one of those has cost us anywhere from $300 to $600, depending on the size of the vehicle," Kuehn said.
Harlingen Police Sgt. John Parrish said thieves are looking to make a quick buck.
"We've heard that some of them are being sold ... for the platinum and so forth that these things are made off. Some of them may be going to Mexico. There's no way to determine where all of them are being sold," Parrish said.
Parrish said thieves move around the Valley making it harder for police to find them.
"They'll hit ... Brownsville for a while, and then move up the Valley and different areas," he said.
Kuehn said his agency is working to improve security at their facility. He said they will install new cameras and hire a guard.