AURORA, Colo. -- It's not your sweet ride, your 21-inch rims or even your purse on the front seat that seems to be attracting thieves in the Denver area these days.
Now, crooks are after a valuable part underneath your car.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter thefts are up 23 percent from 2008 to 2015 nationwide, and the Denver metro is no exception.
“I didn’t think it could happen to me,” said O’Hara Johnson. “And it happened.”
Thieves stole Johnson’s catalytic converter earlier this month in Aurora. His Buick was parked near 14th and Oswego.
Experts say it’s an easy theft.
“The whole inside of this catalytic converter is full of precious metals -- primarily platinum,” said Tyler Lively, the manager of Meineke Car Care Center at Broadway and Belleview. “Thieves cut it out with a Sawzall or a small tool that wraps around the pipe and barely makes any noise when it cuts. Some of these can be worth $30; some of them can be worth $150.”
Your catalytic converter helps reduce toxic emissions. All cars built after 1975 have them.
“The catalytic converter is what keeps our ozone layer good,” Lively said.
“I feel cheated out of my money,” O’Hara said. “And when you're on a fixed income, you have to be more frugal with your money."
Matthew Mozdzier witnessed the theft.
"I walked over there and one of the gentlemen was underneath the car and he had a Sawzall and he was cutting," said Mozdzier. “And I got out there and I asked him, 'What are you doing?'”
Mozdzier says at that point, the thieves got wide-eyed and started throwing their tools into their Ford Ranger.
“He threw all the stuff in his car and drove off. I got his license plate number and I called the police,” said Mozdzier.
Unfortunately, the thieves came back.
"It stinks because it costs a lot more to replace it," Mozdzier said.
On some newer-model cars, catalytic converters can cost nearly $1,000 to replace.
“If you have a car that's low to the ground and a car that's high, put the car that's high in the garage,” Lively said. “Because on a low car, it's harder to cut it out."
Adding insult to injury, the thieves also stole Johnson's license plates.
“They took something that doesn’t belong to them,” Johnson said. “For what? $15? Now, I’m out hundreds.”
Lively said some "direct fit" converters can cost up to $1,700 new.