ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – One local car dealership is asking the community to be on the lookout for a group of thieves allegedly stealing catalytic converters from vehicle lots in the area. These types of thefts are on the rise across the country and unfortunately are not uncommon in the Twin Tiers.

Williams Auto Group, based out of Sayre, posted photos and videos of a group of individuals who, the company said, have allegedly been stealing catalytic converters in the Elmira area. The videos show the thieves stealing the converters in a matter of seconds.

The swiftness of this theft is half of the appeal for thieves. Catalytic converters are quick and easy to steal.

“It’s very simple,” said John Wilber, owner of Wilber Auto Sales and Service in Elmira. “People come in the night, jack the car up, and then they just cut the converter off with a sawzall…probably takes five minutes, tops.”

Williams Auto Group said that the alleged thieves were driving an older model of a Toyota Camry. Anyone with information on the identities of the individuals can contact their local law enforcement agencies.

The Southern Tier has also seen numerous catalytic converter thefts reported over the last several months. On April 1, a Seneca County man was arrested for allegedly stealing the converters from vehicles in the Town of Hector last summer. In January, State Police in Ithaca asked the public for help in identifying a person who allegedly stole the devices from a pickup truck parked on the street.

Wilber reports one customer coming in multiple times in a year for a replacement on the same car each time.

“Empire Medical Transportation in Horseheads, they’ve had a total of four catalytic converters stolen…it cost them about $1600 every time,” said Wilber.

According to a report from the Associated Press, these thefts have soared in the last two years because the price of the precious metals, platinum, palladium, and rhodium, inside them has also skyrocketed.

Wilber says these converters can be re-sold for up to $1,500, from a specific type of vehicle.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there has been a significant increase since the start of the pandemic. Wilber blames the economy for the uptick in these thefts.

“The economy…everybody’s hurting for money… and I think it drives some people to steal,” said Wilber.

The easiest way to avoid this type of theft is to park your car in a garage if that is accessible. Other precautions experts recommend are etching the license plate number on the converter so that it can be identified by law enforcement. Installing an antitheft device is also another option,

The Associated Press contributed to this report.