COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Catalytic converter thefts appear to be dropping across Columbus — but police cautioned against letting your guard down just yet.

Just 20 catalytic converters were reported stolen to Columbus police since Jan. 1, police said, far lower than the hundreds-high peaks of months past. But for some, like auto mechanic Jerry Schwan, the problem is just as bad as ever.

“It’s horrible and it’s a nightmare,” Schwan said.

Schwan works at Tom and Jerry’s Auto Service in Clinton Township. On Jan. 6, his fellow workers walked into work to an unpleasant surprise: Four catalytic converters were stolen from cars in the shop’s lot.

Over the Past three weeks, Schwan said dozens of customers have come in with the same problem.

Schwan said replacing a catalytic converter can run you anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 without insurance. Even with good insurance coverage, he said, car owners can be on the hook for hundreds of dollars.

Schwan said catalytic converter theft has been an issue he’s seen for years. But the last few weeks, he’s felt like a truckload has been dumped on him.

“I just don’t know where it is coming from,” Schwan said.

However, Columbus police said catalytic converter thefts are the lowest they’ve been in two years.

“We’ve had a significant decrease beginning May 2022. It has steadily continued with that trend,” said Alex Bahnen, a Columbus police commander.

There were 181 thefts reported in January 2022, much higher than this month’s 20. The city’s peak was in July 2021 with 226 stolen catalytic converters.

Police said the decline kicked into gear in September, after Groveport police did a major catalytic converter theft ring bust.

Bahnen said this is often not a crime committed by juveniles.

“Generally we don’t see juveniles involved in the theft of catalytic converters – as a general rule there are always exceptions,” Bahnen said. “It typically is an adult crime generally because the scrap yards don’t deal with juveniles when they bring catalytic converters in there.”

But Bahnen said it’s not time to get complacent.

“Frankly, the sound of sawblades cutting metal, it’s a pretty unique sound, it happens in about two minutes, a minute and a half, two minutes,” Bahnen said. “If you hear screeching sawblades, it’s a good time to call the police.”

Police said parking lots or other crowded areas tend to be the most popular spots for this type of crime.