NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Police are warning about a growing number of thieves stealing catalytic converters from cars.
The devices are used to lower emissions, but they're made with precious metals that have been skyrocketing in value, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported Wednesday.
One of the first signs you know your catalytic converter has been stolen is from the rattling sound. It could mean you are in trouble.
"My son went under the car and he could see they cut the pipes," Ozone Park, Queens resident Deo Seecheran said.
Seecheran didn't think parking in front of the house where he's lived for 25 years would be dangerous, but his trusty Honda Accord turned out to be a target.
"I'm frustrated. I didn't expect that to happen," Seecheran said.
A nearby surveillance camera caught the crooks in the act at around 5 a.m. Tuesday. Neighbor Vickram Soenda saw it with his own eyes.
"I noticed this Cherokee pull up here and double park. I heard the rattling and that's when I realized he was taking the catalytic converter," Soenda said.
It took two guys about two minutes to steal what will likely be worth several hundred dollars.
"The converters are going to the hands of recyclers. There are precious metals in the converter and there's an open market for it," repair shop owner Joe Rajkumar said.
Rajkumar said customers are in tears when they learn it'll cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to replace the part and fix the damage.
Catalytic converters are essentially expensive air filtration systems that turn hazardous exhaust into less harmful gas. In 2019, there were close to 3,400 reported thefts. Last year, that number soared to more than 14,000.
It's a troubling trend and cops all over the country are warning about it.
A video from a city yard in Los Angeles shows thieves come in through holes in the fence, carrying saws and bolt cutters before bringing the converters back to their own cars.
Seecheran has this to say to the suspects who seem to have no shame:
"People work hard for ... to accomplish what they have. They should go look for a job, too," Seecheran said.
Police are advising residents to park in well-lit areas or even in a garage, if that's an option.
CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report. This story originally appeared on May 25, 2021.
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