WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Police in Westerly are actively investigating a series of catalytic converter thefts in town.
Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey tells 12 News detectives were made aware of seven thefts on Wednesday, including the four that were stolen off of the Frank Olean Center’s handicap-accessible vans.
Lacey said the catalytic converters were also removed from three of Home Depot’s rental trucks, though it’s unclear whether that’s connected to the Frank Olean Center thefts.
Catalytic converter thefts, according to Lacey, are becoming more common because they can be quickly cut off of vehicles and sold to scrap yards.
Since the beginning of this year, he said there’s been an increase in the number of catalytic converters stolen at a time.
“We’ve had another half-dozen sporadic ones, but nothing like this, with three or four in a clip,” he said.
Lacey said replacing a catalytic converter is not only a hassle, but it can also be costly.
“You can’t use the vehicles. They won’t run [without a catalytic converter],” Lacey said. “They’re cutting them, so it ruins the whole exhaust and it’s over $2,000 per vehicle to get it fixed.”
Westerly isn’t the only community seeing an uptick in catalytic converter thefts. Cranston Police Chief Todd Patalano tells 12 News that the city has received 23 reports since the beginning of this year, two of which occurred in June.
Lacey said once caught, the thieves would face felony larceny charges. He said detectives are investigating a series of leads and increasing overnight patrols in hopes of catching the perpetrators in the act.
In the meantime, Lacey encouraged businesses and residents to remain vigilant and to keep their vehicles either in a well-lit area or inside a garage if possible. Installing security cameras is also recommended, he added.
“That’s really all you can do,” he said. “Just be mindful.”