CHESAPEAKE, Va. - It's a disturbing trend across Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina: Catalytic converter thefts.
News 3 has reported on several of these thefts targeting vans and cars over the past 6 months.
Monday night, Apple Tree Daycare in Chesapeake was the target.
"You start thinking, 'Oh my God, we have field trips next week.' The kids are going to a Christmas play. This is their transportation - how we get to and from," said Heidi Riden, President and CEO of Apple Tree.
The van driver went to start the two vans on Monday and heard a very loud sound, so Rider and her team went straight to their surveillance video.
"We saw two gentlemen in a blue car. They pulled up - saws in hand - crawled under the vehicle and stole the converters," said Riden.
In the crystal-clear surveillance video, you can see legs sticking out from under the van. They squeeze in between the two vans to get closer to the crime - and then in an even more bold and audacious move, enjoy a drink, clean out their car and even put coolant in their getaway car during the act.
"There wasn't a care in the world with them. It was, 'Hey, we're out to steal these,' and it makes you angry. It's personal; it's heartbreaking," explained Riden.
Rider says it was a quick job. The bandits took just 30 minutes to steal the catalytic converters, even leaving pieces of saw blades behind.
"We went to a mechanic, and it's averaging $1,500 per van for us to get them repaired - $3,000 when it's all said and done," said Riden.
An added expense right before the holidays.
"It's money we were not anticipating to come out of our budget line at end of year. It's usually a time we try to help others in need," said Riden.
The Chesapeake Police Department says this is the 50th report of a catalytic converter theft this year they are currently investigating. If you recognize the men or police, call the crime line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888-562-5887).
Police offered the following suggestions:
- When possible, park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances.
- Park in your driveway, if available, whenever possible.
- If you have a garage at your house, park your car inside and keep the garage door shut and locked.
- Calibrate your car’s alarm to set off when it detects vibration.
- Install motion senor activated lights around your residence.
- Engrave your vehicle’s VIN number to the catalytic converter.
- Report any suspicious behavior immediately to the police.