WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Across the nation, there’s been a rise in the theft of catalytic converters, a very important part of your car, and those thefts are especially on the rise here in Texoma.

The Wichita Falls Police Department said thieves are stealing catalytic converters at an alarming rate, and it can happen to any person or business at any time of day.

“They’re under there 30 or 45 seconds, and they’ve got that catalytic converter cut out, and they’re ready to go,” WFPD Sergeant Charlie Eipper said.

It’s that quick process that Eipper said can put a car owner out of thousands of dollars. Across Texoma, there’s a rise in catalytic converter thefts, and Eipper said these thieves are striking everyone, even going as far as taking converters off the cars at the Hampton Vaughn Crestview funeral home.

“On Thursday [March 17] morning, whenever our staff arrived to prepare for funerals, their normal routine is to go and get the vehicles ready to go, and when they went to do so and turned the key, they realized that something was wrong, and we realized our catalytic converters were missing off all our vehicles,” Location Manager for Hampton Vaughn Lynn Dutton said.

Turning the key only to hear a loud sound is what theft victims first notice. Eipper said a loud noise will be the first sign to alert you that your converter is missing, but what’s most alarming is the bold way this crime is being carried out.

“The typical thefts are occuring in the middle of the daylight in congested parking areas,” Eipper said.

A catalytic converter is a key part of a car’s emissions system helping reduce the amount of pollution going out of the car, so you may be wondering why exactly are thieves stealing this car part?

It’s because of a small piece that’s made out of platinum and other precious metals that are found right inside these converters.

“I’m sure they’re taking it somewhere where they could drop that off themselves and have it processed by someone who is actually taking them in to get the metal, and they just pay them, and all of that is done illegally,” Eipper said.

Lynn Dutton said it was disheartening to see this done to a business like theirs, knowing the kind of service they provide to this community.

“Just the pain of having to get them to the shop and get everything repaired and get everything back in working order to serve our families – it was kind of a mess all the way around having to take care of that,” Dutton said.

The funeral home no longer stores their vehicles outdoors now, but instead moved them inside, and Sgt. Eipper is asking that the community stay on the lookout to prevent these crimes from happening.

“If they see somebody that looks like they’re working under a car in a parking lot in the daytime or at night, but in the daytime especially, it could be legitimate, but go ahead and give us a call, especially since that’s going on now,” Eipper said.

Police said to always park in secure, well-lit areas, to try and curb this crime.

If the criminal offense is in progress, WFPD asks that you call 911. However, you can also call WFPD ‘s non-emergency number at (940) 720-5000 to check suspicious activity.