AUSTIN, Texas — Up to 11 catalytic converters were stolen from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) parking lots during the busy Memorial Day travel period.
AUS said it received five reports, while police received three similar reports and 311 received three. No agency is keeping a master set of data, so there is possible overlap with the reports.
Security footage shows a blue sedan entering a garage and a man in a white shirt exiting the car. The man took a catalytic converter from a truck parked beside him, placed it in his sedan's trunk and drove off. Police are searching for the suspect.
KVUE spoke with a woman who said she was hit this holiday weekend, and her catalytic converter was stolen from the Blue Garage next to the airport.
"I parked my car in the Blue Garage as I do all the time for work," said Nikki Martz. "I have to travel a lot, so this is really common."
Things quickly got uncommon for Martz as she returned from her two-day trip to Miami on Monday morning.
"We got to our car, started it up, and it was so loud," said Martz. "My husband was like, first he was like, 'What did you do? Did you hit something?'"
Martz said her husband looked under their car and saw the catalytic converter was ripped from her pickup truck.
"Somebody had literally sawed off our catalytic converter, just two cuts and pulled it off," said Martz.
The theft happened as her truck sat in the Blue Garage at the airport that requires payment to park.
"There's cameras and there's lights everywhere," said Martz. "So I was shocked. I couldn't believe that somebody had the ability to do this in an airport parking garage."
An airport spokesperson said thieves targeted at least three other cars in economy lots over the weekend, which included:
- An email at 7:07 p.m. on Monday night regarding a theft in an economy lot (not in a garage)
- A phone call on Tuesday morning around 9 a.m. for Lot D
- Another phone call on Tuesday afternoon for a catalytic converter threat out of Lot F.
A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device. Thieves steal the part and sell it as scrap metal for cash.
"They can cut them within like 30 seconds and get them in and out," said Need a Brake Mobile Mechanic owner Matt Fuller.
Fuller said he gets weekly calls from clients in Martz's situation.
He said while there isn't much you can do, getting a cover or lock for the part can at least slow thieves down. That is advice Martz is taking, along with other precautions.
"So probably be leaning more towards just getting dropped off versus parking the car there," Martz.
Martz said she filed a police report on Monday morning.
Det. Jeff Sarrels of the Austin Police Department's Commercial Burglary Unit said vehicle alarms or converters with high temperature paint or identifying information etched on can help prevent such crimes from occurring.
Anyone who finds themselves in this situation should call the APD to file a report. Airport and ABIA Parking staff will be assisting the police with their investigation, an airport spokesperson told KVUE.
Sarrels added that these devices can be sold for anywhere from $200 to $800. On some newer Toyota Priuses, they could reach up to $1,400.
AUS said ABIA Parking representatives patrol all lots and garages to respond to customers needing assistance and will alert the police if they witness a crime, such as a vehicle theft, in progress. Customers can all APD or Airport Communications at 512-530-2242 if they notice suspicious behavior at the airport.
APD officers are stationed at the airport and an APD office is located on the airport property.
The airport said all parking lots and garages are equipped with CCTV cameras that monitor the operations 24/7.
AUS had two of its five busiest days ever over Memorial Day weekend. Monday, May 30, was the airport’s third busiest day, with 33,828 fliers, while Friday, May 27, was the airport’s fifth busiest day, with 33,621 fliers.
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