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Thieves Target Platinum in Vehicles

June 24, 2008

By Emily Stranger, The Brunswick News, Ga.

Jun. 24–Lewis Hipchen, 36, doesn’t know why someone would steal two catalytic converters from his delivery truck.

But he has an inkling.

“A friend of mine who is a mechanic told me that the thieves took them because there’s platinum in them,” Hipchen said Monday. “He said mine were probably worth $100 to $150 apiece.”

On Sunday, Hipchen and six of his co-workers discovered that the catalytic converters had been stolen from seven delivery trucks parked at the Flowers Baking Co. warehouse, 6060 New Jesup Highway, Glynn County.

Someone had apparently crawled under the trucks and removed the converters, which use platinum and rhodium to reduce the toxicity of emissions through the exhaust system of an internal combustion engine.

The theft of catalytic converters is a problem that is nationwide. They are a valuable item to thieves with platinum now trading at a little more than $2,000 an ounce.

Hipchen said the bakery’s parking lot, across the street from the Georgia State Patrol’s headquarters in Glynn County, is surrounded by a fence.

“We didn’t know it until one of the guys went to drive off and noticed that his truck was real loud,” he said. “So we looked underneath and saw where the catalytic converter had been cut off. Then we checked our own trucks.”

Hipchen said somebody must have taken a saw to steal the catalytic converters.

All seven trucks sustained a total of $4,000 in losses, according to a Glynn County police report.

Hipchen said it has ruined his week. He spent Monday afternoon fastening a piece of straight pipe beneath the truck to serve as a temporary solution until he takes it to the shop.

And like the other drivers, he leases the truck from the bakery. That means repairs are going to have to come from his own pocket.

“It ruined my day because I knew good and well that I was going to have pay for it because insurance is not going to pay the deductible,” he said Monday.

The delivery trucks at Flowers Baking Co. weren’t the only vehicles targeted for their internal parts this past week.

The general manager for I-95 Toyota, a car dealership at 1000 Millennium Blvd., Glynn County, reported Thursday that the dual exhaust systems had been stolen from six 2008 pickup trucks parked outside the dealership.

Kurtis Johnson, 48, told police that he noticed the theft when he offered one of the trucks to a customer for a test drive, according to a police report released Monday.

When the vehicle started, Johnson told police that a very loud noise came from beneath it.

He said an inspection revealed that the truck’s exhaust system had been cut from the truck.

An examination of other vehicles parked nearby revealed the same thefts.

The vehicles sustained a total of $18,000 in damages, according to the police report. A representative of I-95 Toyota did not immediately return a telephone call Monday.

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