MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – The Blue Lakes Baptist Church owns one van, but now it’s in the shop after a recent catalytic converter theft.
Surveillance cameras on the church show a man casually strolling through the church’s parking lot, heading to the van.
The suspect then crawled underneath the van and allegedly used a power saw to remove a catalytic converter. He put the vehicle part in his backpack and proceeded to walk off the premises to the main road by the church.
The van has since been removed from the church property. It was being held at a congregation member’s house, but is now at Performance Muffler for repair.
Blue Lakes Baptist Church Worship Pastor, TJ Van Dyke said this isn’t the first time the church has been a victim of theft or vandalism.
“We’ve had our church broken into a few times. We had our sound equipment stolen and a guitar stolen quite a few years ago. We’ve had copper lines stolen off of our air conditioning. We’ve had a few incidences of vandalism and windows broken and things like that,” said Van Dyke.
Van Dyke told KFOR it’s going to cost the church thousands of dollars to repair and replace the catalytic converter.
The van is used to pick up children from different areas for church services.
“We pick up anywhere from, you know, seven, eight, nine, ten kids to sometimes 20. Sometimes we have to make multiple trips. And so we pick them up for Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings and, you know, it’ll be tough to pick those kids up this week, but we’ll make it happen,” added Van Dyke.
He adds this is frustrating and a “bummer” that they won’t be able to use the van for about a week. He said his congregation has expressed the same frustration, but that everyone has been “faithful” and lending a helping hand.
The church had a budget of $450,000 this year. He said about one-third of that is donated to missionaries, so they’re limited with what they can do with the remaining funds.
“We raised that money to purchase that van so that we could do ministry, so that we can reach our community. That’s frustrating that, you know, that money is not ours. It’s something that, God calls us to give for purposes like this, so that we can reach kids for the gospel and our community,” said Van Dyke.
The Blue Lakes Baptist Church isn’t the only victim of catalytic converter theft from this past weekend.
“Today [As of Monday afternoon], I’ve done one, two, three, four. Oh, gosh. I have replaced six converters that were stolen over the weekend,” said the Owner of Performance Muffler, Doug Spores.
Spores said his auto repair shop sees between three and six victims of catalytic theft daily.
“What they want is an original catalytic converter. They don’t want a universal well out converter, they just want the one from the factory. Honda elements and Toyota Tundras tend to be the most popular that we’re seeing here. We see a few Kias that’ll come in. Oh, and then on the American vehicles, it’s the Ford F-250 and bigger the state of the converters off of those, especially the church vans,” Spores explained.
Spores told KFOR catalytic converters are stolen for their precious metals: rhodium, palladium and platinum.
“A converter is a converter and they can range anywhere on salvage, depending on the buyer and depending on if they do it legally, they’ll run anywhere from $60 all the way up to $350. The most expensive one that I’ve known of is a factory Honda converters. That’s what they want and those will pay $350 if you do it the legal way,” added Spores.
To replace and repair a vehicle after a catalytic converter theft depends on the vehicle, but Spores gave an example of a Honda, saying it would cost $450 and that’s before repairing any damage the thief may have caused.
Spores said he has even dealt with thieves trying to sell stolen converters to his shop, but if were to accept it, he’d face up to 90 days in jail and a $10,000 fine.
To sell a catalytic converter, Spores said the seller has to have the appropriate documentation showing proof of ownership or a license to sell.
Spores suggested parking vehicles in a well-lit, more populated area as it decreases the likelihood of someone stealing a converter.
He also recommended drivers paint their converters a bright color as thieves will “assume the VIN number or the number that’s on the converter has been recorded.”
Blue Lakes Baptist Church has filed a police report with the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office as of Sunday.