CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Catalytic converters are being stolen off cars nationwide including in Central Illinois.

Police say some thieves are working in groups, while others are working independently. Some cars are being targeted more than others. If it hasn’t impacted you, you probably know someone it has happened to.

Below is a link to UIPD’s interactive map of all the places catalytic converter thefts have been reported in the past year:

“That part contains some precious metals that thieves like to get at so they will actually jack up your car, get underneath it, cut the catalytic converter off however they can and then take off,” Patrick Wade, University of Illinois Police Department spokesperson, said.

Police say scrapyards around Central Illinois quit buying them, so thieves have to find creative ways to sell the catalytic converters. While they’re finding ways to make money, you’re spending it on a replacement.

“Depending on where you get the part, whether you get it at the dealership or an online wholesaler like Rock Auto, it can be anywhere from $750 up to I’ve seen $2500,” Wayne Shaw, Red’s Muffler Shop, said.

Red’s Muffler Shop in Urbana says in the past month they’ve seen almost 30 people for stolen converters and a popular car thieves have been going for: a Prius.

“The Priuses tend to have more of the precious metals in the converter and they bring more money,” Shaw said.

“They can be in and out in 30-90 seconds so it happens very quickly,” Wade said. “In Champaign Urbana we’ve seen it during the day. We’ve seen it over night, usually in parking lots.”

What can you do to protect yourself? Police say park in a well lit or high traffic spot and stay away and call 9-1-1 if you see it happening.

“We have reason to believe that the people doing this can be dangerous,” Wade said. “We’ve seen in other cities they’ve been armed. They kind of have lookouts and they’re making sure someone doesn’t catch them in the act. So our recommendation will be if you see it happening don’t’ approach that situation at all.”

At Red’s Muffler Shop, he had three cars with catalytic converters ripped off come in just today. Two of them were Priuses, one was a raised truck, which is easy for thieves to get under. If you converter is stolen, your car will make a loud sound and your check engine light should come on.

Wade and Shaw said you can buy a device to try and protect your catalytic converter. That device could slow the thieves down. Shaw said he’s had an increase of people asking him to install them on their Priuses and other cars.