MILWAUKEE — Thieves in Milwaukee are targeting catalytic converters on people's cars.

As of April 11, thieves had stolen 497 car parts, up 19% from the same time last year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Police don't break the parts out by category, but they say catalytic converters are the main target.

Sgt. Efrain Cornejo said the converters contain precious metals such as palladium, rhodium and platinum. Repair shops and people looking to save money on replacement parts also are looking for converters, he added.

A skilled thief can slip under a car with an electrical saw and cut a converter free in five minutes, Cornejo said.

Depending on the vehicle, a converter can fetch up to $600 on the underground market, said Leroy Washington of Wright Car Connection, a car repair shop in Milwaukee.

"It's just theivery," Washington said. "People are not doing this because of the pandemic. People are doing this because they just don't want to work for a living. They would much rather steal from someone because to them it's just easier to do that."

Police in Stevens Point, Madison and Wausau have also reported upticks in converter thefts.

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