PHILADELPHIA - As criminals continue to target catalytic converters in cities and suburbs across the country, mechanics who see the costly damage first-hand shared what models are most commonly picked on.
Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle's exhaust system that helps filter out pollutants. They're found on the underside of the car and can be removed within minutes with a metal-cutting tool.
Criminals target catalytic converters because they contain expensive precious metals like rhodium, platinum and palladium.
Thieves can expect to get anywhere from $50 to $300 if they sell the converters to scrapyards, which then sell them to recycling facilities to reclaim the precious metals inside.
In recent years, law enforcement agencies across the country have been trying to thwart the rampant thefts that can cost victims upwards of $1,000.
In Philadelphia, police reported more than 3,400 catalytic converter thefts last year. Earlier this month, authorities said a Philadelphia neighborhood block captain was shot when he tried to stop crooks from stealing a neighbor's catalytic converter.
Just a few miles south, in Wilmington, Delaware, police said there have been 175 thefts since January.
Anthony Campanella, a mechanic at Paul Campanella's Auto and Tire Center, said he's seen vehicles get catalytic converters fixed and stolen almost immediately afterwards.
"There's been a huge uptick over the last six months," Campanella said.
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Experts say the most commonly targeted vehicles for catalytic converter thefts are Honda Accords and Toyota Priuses.
Criminals usually target dim areas without cameras to commit the thefts, according to police.
"One the side of the roads, parking lots, mall parking lots, usually places where there are no cameras, not well lit and very accessible to the public," Cpl. Michel Eckerd said.
To limit the chances of having your catalytic converter stole, police suggest parking in a garage or a well lit area and highly trafficked public area.
The Associated Press contributed to this report