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Vehicles Stripped Of Catalytic Converters In Brazen Daytime Thefts

PALATINE, Ill. (CBS) -- Motorists in Palatine, beware.

A thief or thieves are hitting hard at vehicles parked in a garage next to the railroad commuter station. They're sliding under vehicles which are high off the ground, such as trucks and SUVs, then sawing off valuable catalytic converters.

It is believed the devices are later sold to scrap metal dealers.

CBS2's Mike Parker says they hit three vehicles in broad daylight on Monday.

The owner of Advanced Auto Repair, just across the road  from the train station, says he's had to replace the converters on three SUVs. Jim Stepp says the thieves are after precious metals, such as platinum and rhodium, used in the pollution control devices mounted beneath the chassis.

"What they normally do is use a battery-operated saw," he says. "They don't have to have power or anything like that. It takes about two seconds to cut these things off, and down the road they go."

CPA Greg Monsen's Lexus RX 350 was one of those hit.

"I got in my car, started it up, and it made an incredibly loud noise as though my muffler had been shot," he says.

Monsen drove the car to Advanced Auto Parts, barely able to stand the noise.  He learned that replacing the converter will cost an estimated $1,800. The thief will probably get less than $200 when he sells the stolen device.

The scrap yards know the converters are stolen, according to Jim Stepp.

"Guaranteed," he says.

Monsen says the theft was shocking.

"I feel violated. The other thing that gets me is the sheer audacity of doing this in broad daylight," he says.

These crimes are not happening only in Palatine. Car owners everywhere are potential victims. Nationwide Insurance recommends getting a muffler shop to secure the converter to the frame with welded steel.

That's not a guaranteed solution, but it might help.

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