DENVER (CBS4) — Stephen Stauffer would like to roll with the punches and get on with his business and his life. But the impacts of that morning aren’t easy to shake.
“We all got punched,” Stauffer said Wednesday. “It’s not something you linger on.”READ MORE: Thieves Target Vehicles For Precious Metal Inside Catalytic Converters
Stauffer’s business is down to a single work vehicle, and has been for the last 12 days. That, on top of reduced business due to the pandemic and recent heavy snows and cold temperatures, forced him into economic survival mode.
Friday, March 19, began like any other day.
“The crew was getting ready to go out on the job on the first day after a big storm,” Stauffer said. “One of my leads started up the truck and you could tell something was wrong. It sounded like an old ’60s muscle car.”
The fleet at Precision Seamless Gutters consists of four vans and trucks. Overnight, someone incapacitated three of them by stealing the catalytic converters, a vital piece of emissions equipment that contains precious metals.
Precious, especially, to thieves.
“It takes 30 seconds to cut on of those off,” Stauffer said.
The building that houses his business and other industry – roofers, electricians, and a printing shop among them – has doors large enough to accommodate most work vehicles. But not Stauffer’s bigger rigs.
“My big ol’ box trucks, I can’t just stick them inside.”
So they sit in a parking lot, vulnerable to anyone with a mask, hoodie, malicious intent and a cordless saw.
Another complication – two of Stauffer’s trucks are old enough to not have replacement parts in production any longer. And because of Colorado’s move toward tighter emissions standards at the beginning of the year, there is no apparent solution. Even from the experts at Air Care Colorado, Stauffer said.
“I haven’t heard back from them,” he said. “We are looking at actually having to scrap (the trucks).”READ MORE: Catalytic Converter Thefts Skyrocket In Denver
The group of businesses is on high alert and exploring security improvements, Stauffer said.
The fixable Precision vehicle is being repaired. Payments are made as projects are finished and revenue comes in, said Valorie, Stauffer’s wife and the business’s co-owner.
“He’s not the only one,” said Lem Scarbrough, owner of Front Range Fleet & Auto that is taking care of the Stauffer’s repairs. He believes vehicle owners are pinched by the lack of newly required replacement equipment and the ability to sell stolen equipment.
“(Police) need to go after the people who are buying them,” Scarbrough said. “Kill the market. The materials are high-priced for a reason.”
Scarbrough said he repaired one or two catalytic converters a year in previous years. But thefts are on the rise in 2021. The day Strauss dragged his three vehicles in, Scarbrough’s shop was giving estimates on three others.
Stauffer said he has had to scale back the workload due to the shortage of work vehicles, which in turn forces him to postpone customer’s projects. When he explains why, customers often apologize to the him.
“We’re given black eyes in life randomly,” Stauffer rationalized. “‘Well, that sucks. Now what?’ You regroup and charge forward.”
He plans to use materials and skills on hand to manufacture protective shields over the valuable portion of the trucks’ exhaust. Plates of sheet metal, which he works with. It won’t create an impenetrable defense, but will make the criminal’s task longer and louder.
“I can install that all day.”
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office investigated the thefts at Precision. A spokesman told CBS4 the case was due to a lack of suspect information.
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