EVASNVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — “Cat” thefts are on the rise throughout the nation, although not the ones that go meow. With more thieves targeting catalytic converters, also known as “cats”, the Tri-State is no exception.

The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office warns residents to be aware of the trend of thievery, and to know how to lower your odds of being victimized.

Since the mid 70’s, all cars sold in the United States must have a catalytic converter installed. Catalytic converters convert the harmful compounds from an engine’s emissions into safe gases that don’t harm the environment. They are generally expensive and can fetch hundreds of dollars from a scrap yard. Officials say trucks and vans with higher ground clearance give thieves more room to work and make for tempting targets.

Lt. Noah Robinson explained, “Cat thefts really saw an increase when two factors collided. The price of the precious metals (like rhodium, palladium and lithium) used in cats reached all-time highs… and inexpensive, portable, yet powerful handheld reciprocating saws became readily available.”

The VCSO says it is investigating a catalytic converter theft that recently happened at an automotive related business off N. Saint Joseph Ave. According to authorities, the Evansville Police Department is also investigating a rash of catalytic converter thefts, 13 of which have been reported since March of this year.

One way to avoid falling victim to a catalytic converter theft is to buy a steel cage for yours. These cages can make it more difficult for a soon-to-be thief to steal the converter.  Alternatively, the sheriff’s office says stainless steel cables can be welded from the catalytic converter to the vehicle.

“These solutions may not be practical or cost effective for smaller vehicles, but could make sense for full-size trucks and that are frequent targets,” Lt. Noah Robinson explained. “The cheapest deterrent is a motion-activated light near where the vehicle is parked.”

Officials say the state legislature has taken steps to tightly regulate the reselling of used catalytic converters. Effective July 1st, only licensed automobile salvage recyclers will be permitted to buy or sell used catalytic converters. Salvage recyclers who accept catalytic converters will now be required to keep the same records for catalytic converters as do valuable metal dealers, cap payouts at $25 per transaction per day, and must now be licensed with the secretary of state’s auto dealer services division.

If you have fallen victim of a cat thief, you’ll likely notice the moment you start your car. Your engine will sound very loud since the exhaust will be flowing through the muffler.

“Once you have determined that your catalytic converter has been stolen, call 911 and a deputy or officer will respond to investigate,” says Sheriff Dave Wedding.