While attending a church function Sunday night, someone crawled under my car, took out a saw, sliced my exhaust pipe in two places, and stole my catalytic converter.
I was inside, oblivious to this, and only noticed it when I turned the key in my ignition to have the engine roar up and scare the bejeebers out of me. I assumed that something had blown off in the muffler and crawled under, dress and all, to take a look at it. All I could see was a two-foot gap in my exhaust pipe and metal shavings on the ground. Though the evidence was strong, I hesitated to call the police, feeling a little silly.
After a few minutes and confirmation from someone else that I wasn't crazy, I called the police. An officer came out and confirmed, saying while stealing this part isn't uncommon, the fact someone stole it in broad daylight in a crowded parking lot was unusually brazen. He was very glad I called it in.
After some investigation, I learned that these converters filter the exhaust from the engine and contain some precious metals that make it worthwhile to sell as scrap. The most popular models hit are Nissan and Toyota SUVs from the '90s due to the ease of access (meaning I drive I big target and with my lift kit, I might as well of gift wrapped it for them). While we were waiting for the police to come, a white 4-Runner left the parking lot and after hearing her engine, I figured she'd been hit too.
The muffler people said that thieves like to strike anywhere there's a lot of cars parked. A few years ago, they struck the local high school a few times during classes and a couple of car dealerships.
To be safe, park in well lit and frequented areas, don't leave your car for prolonged periods of time, and, if possible, weld your converter to your frame.