Thieves stealing catalytic converters from Salvation Army’s Ken Carlson Boys and Girls Club vehicles

Piedmont Triad News

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Thieves are stealing summer from the Salvation Army’s Ken Carlson Boys and Girls Club.

People have been taking catalytic converters from their buses and van.

For kids who have had a tough year because of the pandemic, these crimes could ruin camp fun.

It’s happened seven times already.

The thieves are determined. They drove through the gate posts and chain blocking the driveway, ripping the posts out of the ground.

The thefts at the Boys and Girls Club are just a handful of the 316 catalytic converter thefts in the city since January.

Over the past couple of months, staff at the club has been routinely checking their buses.

“Because of COVID, they’ve sat here for much of the past year, so we’ve been starting them up regularly,” said Bob Campbell, with the Salvation Army of Greater Winston-Salem.

Sometimes, when they do, they hear the noise a vehicle makes when it’s missing the converter.

Four buses and one van had the converters stolen.

“Two of the buses have had the converters stolen twice,” Campbell said.

When it happens, the buses are taken out of service, which could make it tough to take campers on the one or two field trips offered each week when camp begins.

“The worst part about these thefts is who they really hurt is the children we serve,” Campbell said.

“I was looking forward [to the field trips], because I was at summer camp last year and during COVID, we couldn’t take any field trips,” 11-year-old Emanual Willis said. “So, I was looking forward to it this year and to have fun again like the old times.”

It’s disappointing to the children.

“It doesn’t feel good to have something taken away to where you can’t do anything,” 11-year-old Mikah Fuller said.

It’s also costly for the Boys and Girls Club to get the buses towed and repaired.

“It’s in the thousands,” Campbell said.

He told FOX8 they do plan to add security to their campus, but they need to raise the money to do it.

“[We hope to] put in security cameras, perhaps a fenced area, a secured area for the buses to be parked. Maybe even a garage. But that’s a big wish list,” Campbell said. “Every dollar we put into something like that is a dollar that is taken away from vital services.”

There is a cheaper solution, everyone can agree on.

“I really hope you can stop doing these things to us,” Fuller said.

“I just hope and pray we get the parts back, so we can go on field trips and have fun again,” Willis said.

Winston-Salem police told FOX8 they don’t have any leads yet in this case.

The rise of catalytic converter thefts is something being seen all across the country.

Police said thieves do tend to target places like churches and clubs where there is a fleet of vehicles that sit for periods of time.

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