BAMBERG COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Catalytic converter thefts have swept the country and the CSRA.

“They know how important these buses are. But we have to take the sick and needing to doctor’s appointments, dialysis, and they know better,” board member of Bamberg County Office on Aging Samella Porter told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagetalk. The agency has been hit three times for its catalytic converters.  The latest one happened near Christmas.

“They seem to have gotten six or seven of them. Tend to focus on the bigger buses that we have. They crawl underneath,” fleet manager Austin Collins added.

The agency provides meals, housekeeping, exercise, and transportation for non-emergencies. “We have in our about 30 vehicles, about 13 or 14 of which are wheelchair-capable vehicles. Those vehicles are the ones that we hit the most. So with those vehicles out, it immediately knocks our fleets only half capacity,” he added.

Carfax reports nationwide catalytic converter thefts have increased by one thousand percent. The part that cleans a car’s exhaust has become a target for theft because the precious metals used in them are valuable. 

“I was very angry in a sense because I think this was wrong. If they wanted or needed money, they can get a job and do what they need to do and leave other people things, property alone.,” Porter shared.

“I have to have a plan together for any given day at any given time to run our facility and our fleet at half capacity. Cause you don’t know what’s gonna happen that night,” Collins added.

There are steps you can take to prevent catalytic converter thefts. “In January or February of 2022, when we got the replacement converters, the converters were painted a bright orange and a special type of paint to withstand the heat. They were also engraved with our name, phone number, and the VINn number from the vehicle,” he recalled.

Collins is unclear if that fix will work. “For the normal crook that doesn’t know what he’s doing per se, those things might deter them. But for someone that knows what they’re doing, if they take that converter off, they’re not after the outside of that converter. They’re after the rare metals inside. So you can strip that outside shell away, and you’ll never know. It depends on how knowledgeable they are about the situation.”

Meanwhile, authorities are still searching for the suspects in the Bamberg County Office on Aging case.

If you have any information, contact the police.