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Thieves targeting Richmond church vans: ‘Come forward and repent’

RICHMOND, Va., -- Richmond Police are investigating after a rash of catalytic converters were reported stolen from vans on the city's Northside.

The thefts occurred in the 3200 block and 4200 block of Chamberlayne Avenue as well as the 3200 block Dill Avenue, according to detectives.

A van belonging to Youth Ministry Entertainment was targeted outside of New Kingdom Church on Dill Avenue on Tuesday night.

"Somebody clean cut the catalytic converter out of the exhaust system," the van's owner Minister V said. "This is terrible because it’s stopping us from going on our field trips."

Minister V said his wife discovered the issue when she started the van on Wednesday morning. She had planned to take more than a dozen children with the non-profit's child care center to the movies.

The non-profit does have insurance, but the copay is beyond their budget.

"You’re inconveniencing 17 children and stopping them from going to field trips -- all for you to have a little bit of money in your pocket," Minister V explained. "It's extremely selfish."

If you'd like to help Youth Ministry Entertainment get their van running again, you're asked to call 804-218-5553.

Police said a recreation van and two church vans were hit on Chamberlayne Avenue alone in recent days

If you have information that could help detectives, call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000 or submit a tip online at http://www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smart phones may also be used. All three Crime Stoppers methods of contact are anonymous.

Why thieves target catalytic converters

Experts say you will know right away if your catalytic converter has been stolen when you start your vehicle. They added that your vehicle will be very loud and will sound like you don’t have a muffler.

A Catalytic Converter is a part of the vehicles exhaust system which helps reduce vehicle pollution. The car parts have become a hot commodity for thieves because it is made of valuable metals like platinum and palladium.

The converters are then taken to metal recyclers where recyclers pay $50 per converter and up to $250 for certain converters.

Ragsdale Gibson, who owns Atlantic Metal in Petersburg, said crooks will often target SUVs and vans.

"The higher a vehicle is off the ground the easier it is to get to it," Gibson explained.

He recommended car owners park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances. When possible, park your car inside your garage and keep the door shut.

Police said consider engraving your vehicle identification number on the catalytic converter which may help alert a scrap dealer the part was stolen.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can submit a news tip here.

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