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DIGGING DEEPER: Tucson Police Department’s etching event continues

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Thieves are stealing catalytic converters across the nation. In many instances, the damage left behind costs more than replacing the catalytic converter itself.

Two weeks ago, Tucson Police Department teamed up with local automotive businesses and sponsored a free etching event. Since January, RPD said they have had nearly 400 catalytic converter thefts. To deter thieves, police recommend etching.

Larry Eagle is shown etching the VIN number that belongs to a vehicle. He is optimistic it will help deter thieves. 

"Once it's been etched and everything like that, it kind of gives it a marking that it wasn't taken off legally," Eagle said. 

After the etching, spraying paint on the catalytic converter will make it less attractive to thieves.

Eagle works at Kenny's Exhaust. In the last two years, he has replaced more than 150 catalytic converters.

"There's definitely been an uprise in thefts," he said. "We probably get on average three a day." 

Two vehicles sitting in the parking lot had catalytic converters replaced.

Another problem, Eagle said, it is costing vehicle owners more to replace catalytic converters due to the damage thieves are causing.

"We've had people cut driveshafts in half," he said. "We've had fuel lines, fuel tanks cut in half and literally just destroyed the car over a mere missing part, and they don't know what they're looking for half the time." 

TPD suggested having the VIN number etched on catalytic converters is a good idea. However, some vehicle owners are taking it a step further. Eagle designed and built a customized cage that's placed over the catalytic converter.  

He installed it in a client's vehicle. It is made out of rebar making it very difficult to get to the catalytic converter. Jim Stephenson is among the hundreds who had their catalytic converters etched. Two weeks ago, he went in for an oil change and got a bonus.

"I think it was a really good deal, especially since it was free," Eagle said. 

Etching events have come together thanks to Tucson police partnering with several automotive shops. The Home Depot donated tools and spray paint. Stephenson added community outreach like that will only help. 

"A lot of people aren't aware that it is a problem.  I had heard of it, but I didn't know it was as much as a problem as it is," Stephenson said. "And this will only help us avoid having problems in the future I hope." 

Kenny's Exhaust Works continues to do the etching for free. Tucson police said they are planning another city-wide event before the end of the year.

For more information, visit Kenny's Exhaust Works at 275 E. Fort Lowell Rd. or call 520-887-4999.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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