MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Dotson Memorial Baptist Church in Maryville has fallen victim to a crime many others have across East Tennessee: catalytic converter theft.
“They’ve basically hit us twice, the first time they hit two of the vans, we don’t know why they didn’t hit the third, and the second time they got two more,” said one of the Pastors of the church, Sean Wentley. “When you steal something, especially from a church, you’re really stealing from God.”
Wentley added that it’s not just his church that’s struggled with this. “It was on the same day that they hit our church that they just went down the road and hit new Hope Baptist Church,” said Wentley. “They’ve been hitting church row.”
Aside from the thousands of dollars of damage, he said it’s slowed down their ministry. “We’ve had ministries that we’ve had to alter or cancel as a result of this,” he said. “We overcame it thanks to the Lord and we adjusted, but we had to immediately come up with other forms of transportation.”
Jenn Grubb, the Shop Manager at the Mighty Muffler and Brake Shop in Knoxville, explained what a catalytic converter is. “The converter is actually the filter in the exhaust system,” said Grubb. “It takes the exhaust coming off the motor and filters it before the tailpipe and into our atmosphere.” She also said while every vehicle has at least one catalytic converter, some may have two.
Grubb said thieves are after them mostly because of the components inside of the converters. “A converter has a lot of different metals inside.” Platinum is one of the most expensive metals inside of the device.
Grubb said she is getting a dozen calls a week, and sometimes a day, to schedule catalytic converter replacements. “We were on vacation from the 5th to the 10th, when we reopened that Monday I took in 14 jobs that had converters missing,” said Grubb.
She also said it’s not uncommon to see a church or large organization targeted because they usually have a large fleet of vehicles.
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As far as what people can do to stop these thefts from happening, Grubb said there’s a couple of options on the market as far as cages or shields go. She felt the best line of defense is parking in a well-lit area and working with your neighbors. “If there is someone in your neighborhood who is not supposed to be there, maybe contact a couple of your neighbors.” She also said some people are painting their converters to help identify them in case they are stolen. She said if that is something someone will do make sure you consult with an auto-professional first.
Pastor Wentley said he plans to install more lights and surveillance cameras. He also won’t get the converters replaced until he can get the proper cages around them.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct an error.