Thieves targeting a particular car part in Athens-Clarke County

Thieves cut the pipes near the muffler to steal a catalytic converter off this vehicle. [Gary Cosby Jr./USA Today Network]

When Lacey Sims left her Athens home for work the morning of Jan. 26, she didn’t get far before the car malfunctioned.

At a local dealership, she learned the catalytic converter had been stolen and her exhaust system heavily damaged by the thief. The shop’s estimate for repairing the 2005 Toyota Prius: $3,009.

“I just bought my car for about $4,500, so it’s not worth fixing. I’ll have to buy another car now,” she said Thursday.

Sims is one of numerous victims of thieves who have been stealing catalytic converters off vehicles this year. Theft reports from the past two weeks show the crimes are occurring during night hours across Athens-Clarke County.

The catalytic converter is an emission-control device required on vehicles to reduce pollution.