Catalytic converter thief caught on video at the Plainville limousine company | Local News

PLAINVILLE — A brazen thief got away after being caught stealing a catalytic converter in broad daylight outside a Route 1 limo service this week, but the culprit was caught on security video.

An Emerald Square Limousine employee spotted the thief after pulling into the parking lot around 11 a.m. Sunday, then followed the thief’s gray SUV south on Highway 1 for about two miles while phoning police, owner John Lennon said Tuesday.

The thief, however, managed to slip away in the Elm Street neighborhood of North Attleboro, Lennon said.

Lennon said the man cut one side of the converter, which is an anti-pollution device, but fled before he could complete the crime.

“It didn’t take long,” he said.

Video posted to the limo company’s Facebook page shows the thief entering the parking lot in a gray or silver SUV with tinted windows.

The vehicle pulls up next to another SUV and the thief gets out with a power cutter and slips under the vehicle shortly before the employee enters the parking lot.

The thief, dressed in what appear to be red sweatpants with a white stripe down the leg and a gray top, then climbs out from under the SUV and escapes.

Police Chief James Floyd said the license plate did not match the getaway vehicle. Police are investigating but have not yet identified a suspect, he said.

Lennon said the robber was with another person who was driving and serving as a lookout.

Lennon said his business had ‘never had a problem’ with catalytic converter thefts but, after posting the video, he heard from other business owners along Highway 1 who have been victimized recently .

Converter thefts have become more common over the past year nationwide due to the high price of the metals they contain, making it a profitable crime.

Thieves target pickup trucks and SUVs because they are easier to get past. They often strike car dealerships or multi-vehicle parking lots, but residential areas are not immune, police say.

Besides being profitable, crime can also be costly.

Earlier this month, a thief rammed a 27-foot box truck belonging to the Hebron Food Pantry in downtown Attleboro.

It’s unclear exactly when the converter was stolen, but it was discovered when a volunteer with the nonprofit organization started the truck’s engine for a planned trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank to pick up a load of food.

“He started it up and it was loud,” Carissa Phillips, executive director of the pantry, said Tuesday.

New England Tire, across from the pantry, installed another catalytic converter, Phillips said. Including the $500 deductible, the cost was about $1,000 and it will cost about $1,000 more to put on a shield to prevent another theft, she said.

Since the theft, the truck has been parked in a more visible location near the pantry to deter further crime.

There’s a bipartisan bill pending in the Statehouse to crack down on catalytic converter theft by cracking down on the culprits and those who buy the stolen devices.

It was filed in April by State Representative Steve Howitt, R-Seekonk, and has 20 co-sponsors, including State Representatives Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro; Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield; and Sean Dooley, R-Norfolk; and State Senator Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro.

In addition to the cost of repairs, Howitt said, crime can be costly for business owners whose trucks are out of service after a theft, and employees, such as landscapers, who might not be able to work. while their vehicles are out of service. .

“These people are heartless,” Howitt said of the thieves. “All they talk about is money.”

In addition to being valuable for their metals, converters are attractive targets for thieves because they lack identifying serial numbers, making them harder to trace if recovered.

Despite its late tabling in the legislative session, Howitt, whose van was stolen and recovered with the converter missing, said the bill has a good chance of passing this year.

In addition to penalties for device theft, the bill would require approved buyers to keep detailed records, including the seller’s name and address and a copy or photo of their photo ID. It also requires pictures or documents proving the seller’s ownership of the catalytic converter and requires the buyer to pay the seller by check instead of cash.

“The bill will make it harder to sell these things. Hopefully our neighboring states will do the same,” Howitt said.

In the meantime, police say vehicle owners can take steps to avoid being targeted.

Homeowners can install motion sensor lights and businesses can keep their grounds well lit. Security cameras can also help prevent theft or help police identify a suspect.

In order to make the converter less attractive to a thief, vehicle owners can also use shiny, high-temperature auto exhaust paint on the devices as a deterrent.

Police are also urging people to report any suspicious activity immediately.

David Linton can be reached at 508-236-0338.

Barbara M. Stokes