SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The YMCA, a Valley non-profit, was robbed of 15 catalytic converters from their transportation fleet.
The recent theft from their organization's buses is causing cancellations for activities many Valley kids rely on, especially during the pandemic.
YMCA Director Jenna Cooper is devastated that thieves would target children. She and other staff members are working closely with police to avoid a repeat offense.
"We had one bus that was missing a catalytic converter at one of our locations, thought it was really weird. It was obvious that it was cut out," Cooper said.
"We have had to cancel programs, tell kids that they can't come to the 'Y' because we're in a crisis, we literally can't pick them up."
In talking with several police departments, it seems the crime is becoming more common.
Phoenix police said there were 259 thefts of catalytic converters in January 2021, which is an increase from prior years.
The Chandler Police Department is working multiple cases and shared video of potential suspects lurking in dark parking lots, looking for unlocked cars.
Meanwhile, Scottsdale police are specifically working with the YMCA among dozens of other similar cases. Sgt. Wiley Adams said those thefts are on the rise because the precious metal market is up.
"The scrap value or resale value of a catalytic converter has also gone up, running about $100 to $300 per converter," Adams said.
"However, we're finding that the average cost to a victim is about a $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the make and model of their vehicle."
Adams said that while the act of the theft itself is quite noisy, he recommends vehicle owners keep their cars parked in well-lit areas with high foot traffic and to not leave your car parked in the same spot unattended for long periods of time.
As for the YMCA, they're working as quickly as possible to get the buses fixed. Cooper says, they're looking at about $50,000 in parts and labor.
"We're working with our insurance company to try to get funding in place so we can get these buses fixed immediately so we can get these kids back," she said.
To help the YMCA raise money to have repairs done, visit their website.