MERCER COUNTY, W. Va. (WVVA) - Catalytic converter theft has hit an all-time high - from an average of nearly 110 a month in 2018 to more than 2,350 in December of last year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Thieves are after the precious metals -- such as platinum and palladium -- that can bring in big bucks.
It's a crime of opportunity and with the price of those rare metals used in emissions control devices nearly doubling in the past years -- thieves are becoming brazen.
Dylan Perrine is a mechanic at Muffler Man in Princeton, West Virginia, he said there are ways vehicle owners can help prevent this from happening to them.
"Right there, you want to listen for that. That's a saw-zaw, they use battery powered saw-zaws," he said. "They crawl under your car, rip it off, within minutes, they are gone.
"So, really the best thing you can do is to keep an ear out."
According to Perrine, covers that go over the catalytic converter can either slow down would be thieves or completely stop them.
Lieutenant J.D. Halsey with the Princeton Police Department said alerting the police is also a way to deter these type crimes.
"Stay on your toes, if you see something call. Help us, because a lot of our job is after the fact," he said.
According to Halsey the crime is on an uptick, his department has responded to a variety of calls related to catalytic converter theft.
He said it can happen anywhere, during any time of day.
"They [criminals] don't necessarily work in the dark of the night anymore because people are so busy with what they are doing throughout the day," said Halsey. "They don't really pay attention to what's going on around them."
One sure sign to know if you've been the victim of catalytic converter theft, is the sound the vehicles make when the ignition is turned on, the sound according to Perrine, the sound is loud and obnoxious.
"We have had people come in to replace their catalytic converter after it's been cutoff," he said. "Depending on the vehicle, it can be [cost] $200 to $1,200, different vehicles have different number of cats [catalytic converters], some have two, some have four, and that can run you up quite a bit."