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Undercover operation stops catalytic converter thieves in Crawford County

Investigators with the Crawford County Sheriff's Department arrested three people in a catalytic converter sting operation.

CRAWFORD COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — On Tuesday, April 5, investigators with the Crawford County Sheriff's Department apprehended three suspects as they attempted to steal catalytic converters.

For several months, investigators have been following up on reports of thefts and noticed a pattern. The Crawford County Sheriff's hatched a plan and went to work undercover in hopes of catching their suspects.

"Sure enough, they showed up and he (Investigator, Edwin Bishop) was able to apprehend three people, two males and a female, in the process of cutting a catalytic converter from a car," said Crawford County Sheriff, Jim Damante.

Bishop, along with the help of deputies, arrested Anthony Painter, Kimberly Cernius and Ryan Archer before any damage was done to the targeted vehicles.

The investigation is ongoing, and investigators say that with every theft they can stop, they gather more evidence.

That evidence, Bishop says is, "helping us determine who it is, patterns, and stuff like that we can look for, to attempt to catch these people either in the act, in the act of selling it or catch them with catalytic converters in their vehicles."

Jody's Auto Service Center in Van Buren told 5NEWS that they have helped close to 100 victims of catalytic converter theft over the last year and a half. 

It takes only a few minutes for thieves to strip a vehicle of a catalytic converter that is then sold for a few hundred dollars but leaves victims with a blow to their wallets.

"A lot of them have been covered by insurance, but, you know, a lot of people don't have insurance," said Scott White, a mechanic at Jody's Auto Service Center. "It's very costly. It renders the car undrivable, it can be $2,000-$5,000 depending on the make and model of the vehicle."

White says anyone with a vehicle can be a target but there are ways to help slow down would-be thieves.

"People are manufacturing some cover plates that will go on the bottom side of your vehicle, bolted onto the frame or the floor, or wherever, to cover that to where they can't have access," White said.

Sheriff Damante is proud of his team's efforts Tuesday and believes the undercover operation was a success. 

Noting this is just a step in hopefully stopping the widespread theft of catalytic converters, Damante wants other catalytic converter thieves to know, "we'll catch you eventually. We're going to catch you. We're not going to give up."

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