BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - There is a rise in car-related thefts in Bladen County, but it’s not the cars itself...it’s a valuable part of them.
Catalytic converters are being stolen all over the county, but churches seem to be a big target.
“It just seems unreal,” said Charlie Tatum of Clarkton Pentecostal Freewill Baptist Church. He’s been the pastor there for more than 40 years and says he’s never experienced this much crime on church property.
“They hit [the van] twice,” said Tatum. "There at my house and so we thought it was safe if we would put up the gates and put it out here at the church. And then about three weeks ago, the van was hit again.”
Within a three month span, the catalytic converter has been stolen from the van three times...twice at Tatum’s home. That’s when Tatum spent thousands on new gates and security cameras at the church; that way it would be safe there, but it wasn’t.
Tatum says whoever stole the converter, broke the bottom of the fence and crawled under to get to the van. Tatum believes it was well planned because they were able to avoid the cameras.
The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office is hoping to combat the increasing number of catalytic converter thefts in the county by requiring all buyers and sellers of precious metals to obtain a permit first.
“What really brought it to my attention is when we started having church buses at churches damaged," said Sheriff James McVicker.
The church van’s catalytic converter stolen three times in a matter of three months. But, Tatum isn’t the only one being targeted.
“We call it a church on wheels," said Tatum. But now the van is back in the shop getting repairs, which doesn’t allow the church to use it for pick-ups and drop-offs, outings to restaurants and other church-related activities.
No arrests have been made as of Monday, but Sheriff James McVicker hopes the permits will help reduce the crime.
“God knows who they are and when you just hope and pray that they will stop it," said Tatum.
If you have information regarding the thefts of catalytic converters, please contact the sheriff’s office.