After slowing down, catalytic converter thefts in the area may be on the rise.

On Tuesday morning, Jaime Ayalde discovered he had lost the catalytic convert off his Toyota 4Runner sometime during the night, while it sat in his driveway near 48th Street and Elliot Road.

“Didn’t hear a thing,” Ayalde said.

And a nearby Midas auto repair shop had two vehicles this week and two last week missing the valuable catalytic converter.

For Ayalde, the two minutes it took to take the catalytic convert now means two hours in the shop and $350. And he said it could have been worse.

“They didn’t do too much damage when they cut it off,” he said.

Thieves seek catalytic converters for the valuable metals that eliminate harmful exhaust and which have become standard on all vehicles for the past 30 years.

Toyota vehicles are particularly popular targets for thieves because they are high off the ground and allow plenty of room for a thief to work, and older models only have four bolts holding the converter on.

Last year, Sarah Ellis learned the catalytic converter on her Toyota 4Runner had been taken as she was preparing to close up at The GAP in the Casa Paloma shopping center.

According to security guards, a couple if thieves - in front of shoppers and motorists - crawled under her Toyota, hacked lose the catalytic converter, tossed it in their car and drove away before anyone could get a license plate number.

Toyotas aren’t the only targets for thieves. Any vehicle with enough ground clearance to get under is a possible target.

Police say that parking in a locked garage at night can lessen the chances of becoming a victim. They also suggest parking in such a way that makes it difficult or impossible to crawl underneath a vehicle.

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