MILWAUKEE -- Police say thieves have been targeting vehicles on Milwaukee's south side, looking to cash in by selling catalytic converters they rip from vehicles. Catalytic converters are located underneath vehicles. All thieves need is the right equipment and a small amount of time -- and then a scrap yard that will accept the metal.
Bandos Recycling takes what many leave behind: a pick axe, tire rims by the dozens and a phone booth. They package the items up and sell them.
"My metal business is strictly off the street. I don't do any industrial," Melanie Bandos said.
If it is metallic and there is a legitimate seller, odds are a transaction could follow. It's the illegitimate sellers that worry this business.
Sue Kruse had part of the exhaust of her 2000 Chevy Venture stolen last Thursday, January 10th. Police told her the valuable metal inside could fetch the thief $100 to $500.
"The guy slides under and has a battery-operated Sawzall," Kruse said.
Pictures show the exhaust was sliced out of its undercarriage.
Kruse says a handful of other drivers have also been hit, so she's set up a different kind of car alarm and has posted a warning on her vehicle's window.
To prevent this kind of metal from ending up in businesses like Bandos Recycling, Bandos says every scrap dealer in the city of Milwaukee must catalog their purchases. The database allows police to track stolen goods and to pick up cash.
Sellers must provide a valid ID, and information from that ID is scanned and remains on file to track repeat sales. The seller must also sign a statement saying he or she is selling personal property.
The problem is, not every community does this.
"That has been a bone of contention for scrap dealers such as myself because you can go to another dealer in the county that does not have to adhere to the same rules such as myself," Bandos said.