VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach church has become the latest target of theft. Someone stole the catalytic converter off the church’s van.
Virginia Beach police said a string of similar thefts have been happening around the city.
VBPD told 10 On Your Side that there have been at least 20 larcenies catalytic converters just this month.
Catalytic converters are a part of a vehicle’s exhaust system and contain precious metals. They can be sold for a couple hundred dollars, at times.
One of those incidents happened at Ebenezer Baptist Church off Baker Road.
Pastor R. Perez Gatling said seeing surveillance footage of the theft was hard to watch.
“We felt violated,” Gatling said.
It happened earlier in January. A deacon discovered the damage after arriving for Sunday services. A review of the cameras showed a silver car pull in next to the van.
“The driver had the license plate covered,” Gatling said. “We could see the driver get out with the flashlight and he maneuvered between the two vehicles.”
The church filed a police report. Gatling was shocked by what he said a detective shared.
“He told one of my trustees that 250 churches had been hit in similar fashion between here and Richmond since the beginning of the year,” Gatling said.
VBPD could only provide the number of catalytic converter thefts that occurred in the city, which is at least 20 so far in January alone.
However, the department told 10 On Your Side there has been a large number of catalytic converters reported stolen throughout the region.
Gatling said he mentioned the theft at his church on a Zoom call with other pastors from the Tidewater Metro Baptist Ministers Conference.
“Several of the pastors spoke up,” Gatling said. “It’s not an isolated incident. It really scared me once I realize how pervasive this problem was.”
Not only will repairs cost hundreds of dollars, but the van will also be out of service for a few weeks.
“This person has inhibited our ability to serve our parishioners who need the handicap accessible van to come to worship,” Gatling said.
He said he’ll be praying for whoever did it and even invited that person to come back so the church can help.
“We don’t want anybody to be hit,” Gatling said. “We just want it to stop.”
Police encourage the public to install security cameras. They said it may not always deter the crime but can help investigators trying to solve them.