LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Car crimes are happening in Southwest Florida, where instead of going inside the car, thieves are getting what they need from under your car. This weekend, surveillance video cameras captured two men stealing car parts from several cars on Country Lakes Dr. in Fort Myers.
Jay Barr has owned Poor Man’s Auto Repair for more than 36 years, and says that video was no surprise to him.
“Back in 2008, 2009 when the economy slumped real bad, people were doing that,” he said.
The suspects caught on camera got away with multiple converters in broad daylight Sunday morning. Barr says it’s not hard to do.
“Somebody could watch you go into Publix or Lowes, somewhere that has those real tall trucks, saw that thing off, and be gone in less than five minutes probably,” he said.
He says recycling companies will pay on average between $75 and $200 for the metal inside of them - the most common targets are Prius Hybrids - on the higher end of the value scale, which could rake in $500 at recycling shops.
“A Prius replacement is around $4,000,” he said.
So, depending on how high your deductible is, you could end up spending a lot more to replace the converter than the thieves got when they sold it.
Barr says some recycling companies check the VIN number on the car parts before buying them, but that’s not the case everywhere.
He remembered one car dealership had 70 catalytic converters stolen at one point after the housing market crash in 2008.
Trish Routte with Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers urges local businesses to take the necessary precautions.
“If you can do security cameras, that’s great, or fencing. Something to keep criminals away. If it’s not going to be an easy take for them, they’re going to go to the next business,” she said.
Barr says the best way to protect your car is to keep it in a well-lit area, and consider getting a motion-sensor alarm.