In God We Trust Our Catalytic Converters

On Friday, October 1 in the cover of dawn darkness, I launched the attack at the edge of the church’s Bicentennial Garden. 

A nest of in ground yellow jackets  had been making their presence known to  preschool students and other pedestrians who shuffled along the sidewalk that fronts the garden. 

On the previous afternoon, my reconnaissance had located the hideout for the swarming stingers. This morning, as I sprayed the fortress with the recommended insecticide—no yellow jackets emerged.

Next, I staged Trinity Hall for our weekly collection of food in support of two pantries. Then I went back home for breakfast. 

When I returned to church, I was focused on final preparations for a 2 p.m. funeral. 

Funerals do something to a church staff. In their own quiet way, funerals add a layer of stress in the pursuit of perfection for the grieving family. A checklist runs through the staff’s minds making sure that no details are overlooked.

By noon, I was ready to head back home to get cleaned up and make my attire more presentable. Just as I was leaving the Stuart Hall Road parking lot, I heard this loud rumbling roar coming from the Rock Creek Road parking lot.

I knew one of our members, Bob Argabright, was coming by to pickup the step van for a Saturday morning project at Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School. I sensed that never heard before sound had come from the starting up of the van.

Sure enough, when I circled back around to the Rock Creek lot, Bob had returned and parked the van. Bob confirmed the sound had come from the van. He guessed something wasn’t right with the exhaust system. We surmised the van shouldn’t be driven until we could have a mechanic determine its ailment.

Our other church van was available, so Bob took it for Saturday.

Late on Friday afternoon, I checked with our neighborhood mechanic, David, at the Mobil station down the street from the church. He suggested that I crawl under the van to determine if the catalytic converter was still in place. David’s experiences told him that the loud roar might be attributed to a stolen catalytic converter.

So early Saturday morning, I crawled under the van. I found a gap in the exhaust system of about two feet. The catalytic converter had been cut out with the precision of a surgeon.

I gathered information about the van and reported the theft to our  community officer in our county’s police department. Officer Phillips filed the report, and then followed back up with me.

Officer Phillips communicated that the police department believes they need state legislative assistance to combat this epidemic increase in catalytic converter theft. 

Currently, metal salvagers are not required to report when a person shows up to sell a trunk load of stolen catalytic converters. This is unlike requirements for pawn shop operators who are required to report their purchases.

 Also, catalytic converters do not have a manufacturer’s serial number. This prevents law officers from effectively tracking the  stolen converter back to the rightful owner. You can wager your last penny that thieves know these loopholes, and every thief also knows the precious metals in the converters are very valuable.

During my ten years of work at our church, this is the third theft we have worked through related to metals. The first was copper gutters, followed by a large brass coupling cut out of the controls for the landscaping sprinkler system.

I wonder what type of person/s comes out under the cover of darkness and steals from a church? What pushes a person to steal in the first place? Is the individual desperate for cash? Does the individual have an addiction problem?  Is  a family member in distress?

In 1957, the words: “In God We Trust”  were printed on paper currency in America for the first time. I’d be curious to know if the gutters, coupling, and converter thieves have any concept of trusting God in their daily living? Additionally, I’d be interested to learn if attending church was ever a part of their lifestyle?

We have made arrangements for the van to be repaired. But, there are no preventative techniques that could keep the same theft from happening again.

I guess I’ll leave that for God to work on. Maybe he can wear down the conscience of the catalytic converter stealer.

One of the precise cuts made to remove the catalytic converter. Photo by Bill Pike

2 thoughts on “In God We Trust Our Catalytic Converters”

  1. Bill,

    We’ve had numerous cases of them being stolen from school buses and other vehicles in Chesterfield County. Surveillance cameras have greatly assisted apprehending a couple of suspects.

    Best to you my friend.


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