Catalytic converter / Getty Images

Catalytic converter thefts are up 800% when compared to this time last year, Chattanooga police warned in a news release.

In January 2020, four converters were reported stolen in the area. In January 2021, 36 thefts occurred.

Thieves can remove the part in mere minutes, the release stated.

"Most people will not even know the converter has been removed until they start their vehicle," Ty Cooper, Chattanooga Police Department auto theft investigator, said in the statement. "When the vehicle starts, it'll sound kind of like a NASCAR engine and gets louder as the gas pedal is pressed."

The police department also provided a list of tips to help prevent thefts of catalytic converters, a part of a vehicle's exhaust system that is targeted for its composition of precious metals that are in turn sold for money, the release states.

The tips include:

> Park in well-lit areas.

> Park close to building entrances or the nearest street in public parking lots.

> If you have a garage, park in it. Close the door, and lock it.

> If you have video cameras, position them to capture where your vehicle(s) is parked.

> Have the VIN number etched onto the catalytic converter.

> Install a catalytic converter-specific security device.

The department also wrote that catalytic converter thieves usually carry saws or snipping tools and that residents should immediately report any theft when noticed by calling the non-emergency number at (423) 698-2525, or 911 if the theft is ongoing.

- Compiled by Tierra Hayes