By Conor McCue

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – Residents at a living community for older adults in Arvada say thieves have stolen multiple catalytic converters from vehicles over the past month and a half. Last Tuesday, Connie Pope hopped in her car to drive to a doctor’s appointment. While leaving her home at Columbine Village, she noticed a loud noise and thought it was a problem with the transmission.

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“It sounded like a really loud Harley Davidson,” Pope said.

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Pope quickly called her son, who said the problem may be her catalytic converter. When she looked under her Jeep Liberty, those suspicions were confirmed.

“They went under there with an electric saw or something and just cut the whole thing out,” Pope said.

According to Pope, catalytic converters were stolen from at least two other cars that same day. A month before that, neighbor Marv Slager heard a similar sound while starting up his Toyota 4Runner. He brought it to a nearby mechanic, who confirmed his catalytic converter was missing too.

“A new catalytic converter was $2,995,” Slager said. “It was approximately $650 for labor.”

The theft of catalytic converters continues to be a growing problem across the Denver metro area and the country. It’s a part found in every car, meant to reduce the toxic emissions from the exhaust.

Police tell CBS4 hybrid and high-profile vehicles are being targeted the most. Thieves are interested in the precious metals found inside the part.

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“Catalytic converters contain platinum, palladium, and rhodium,” said Lt. Kevin Hines with the Denver Police Department. “To give you an idea of rhodium right now, it sells for $21,000 an ounce.”

This year, CBS4 has reported on the issue multiple times, including instances where schools and non-profit organizations were targeted.

On Saturday, Denver Police teamed up with Lincoln Tech to prevent more by having students engrave the last eight digits of VIN numbers on the parts and then spray paint them bright colors.

“Getting a VIN number on a catalytic converter is a good start,” Hines said. “Another good thing you could do is park in well-lit areas. Don’t leave your vehicle in long-term parking, in businesses, warehouses, things like that.”

While Slager is now dipping into his retirement money to pay for the new part, Pope is not sure where she’ll find thousands of dollars.

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“We’re seniors 60 and over and we’re on a fixed income, so having to fix something like that is just devastating for us,” Pope said.

A spokesman for the Arvada Police Department said the department is investigating these thefts along with other agencies.

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“Get a job. I mean, don’t make us a victim. We just can’t afford this,” Pope said.

Conor McCue