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Catalytic converter thieves strike in Harrisonburg

Andrew Piazza
The Toyota Prius, despite sitting low to the ground, is a target for catalytic converter theft due to the precious metals contained in the part.

In a single night last month, the catalytic converters were stolen off of 10 Harrisonburg residents' cars in a blitz of theft. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Harrisonburg is just the latest place to be hit by a rash of catalytic converter thefts – specifically from Toyota Priuses.

According to an article from Carfax, reports of this specific car part being stolen from all vehicle models increased by more than 1,000% from 2019 to 2021. Priuses were among the top ten most commonly hit models across the country, in part because "more precious metals are needed for a hybrid's catalytic converter."

Harlan Price is one of 10 local residents who woke up on the morning of September 21st to find his car impaired.

HARLAN PRICE: My wife started the Prius and it just started making a rumbling noise. … A real crazy noise, you know, loud. … I look under there, and I see a couple things hanging, like little wires, and there's a clip on the ground.

Price just had liability insurance on the 2008 Prius, so he had to pay $630 out of pocket to replace the catalytic converter and O2 sensor.

Captain Jason Kidd with the Harrisonburg Police Department told WMRA that the 10 Priuses hit that night were parked in residential neighborhoods in different parts of the city. He said a white Ford Mustang was seen in the area of multiple thefts.

Another local resident told WMRA that their catalytic converter was first stolen in August and then again the night of September 20th.

Price was surprised that he and his wife didn't hear anything, even though they had their windows open that night.

PRICE: Harrisonburg in general just feels like a city that just has less crime and feels a little safer, and, yeah, it definitely felt like I got hit by a little reality check.

Kidd said that they are speaking with other law enforcement agencies in the region because they think other localities have been or could be targeted.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.