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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A crime costing people thousands of dollars is on the rise across the Kansas City metro: catalytic converter thefts.

Criminals prey on unsuspecting travelers who are using long-term parking at Kansas City International Airport. 

After flying back from the beach, the last thing one Lenexa couple wanted to deal with was a car problem. 

“The beach feeling went away really fast,” Michelle Fleenor said. 

Fleenor and her husband picked up their car from Economy Parking lot B at KCI. But their CRV sounded more like a motorcycle. 

“We knew right away that something was really wrong. I actually thought a Harley Davidson started up inside our car,” Fleenor said.

Criminals stole their catalytic converter right out from under their SUV.

Fleenor immediately called airport police. An officer on scene told her this was their fourth call of the day about a stolen catalytic converter.

“I was really floored actually that the security wasn’t better there,” Fleenor said. 

There were 13 catalytic converter thefts in April, 16 in May and, as of June 8, there have been nine this month, according to KCI spokesman Joe McBride.

He said they’re stepping up security. 

But it’s not just KCI. This crime of opportunity is an increasing problem across the country and in the Kansas City metro. 

In February, Kansas City police said the city is on track to hit 2,400 catalytic converter thefts this year. That’s compared to only 800 in 2020.

McBride said airport bus drivers are trained to report suspicious activity. Cameras are also monitored by dispatchers day and night. Currently, the airport has officers and security truck roving economy parking lots 24/7. McBride said that will increase. 

“We take it very seriously,” McBride said. “And these are our customers, and their property is a concern for us. And we want them to feel safe parking their vehicles here and safe in the airport.”

Fleenor is happy to hear it. She’s also relieved insurance will cover her damages but knows others aren’t so lucky. 

“I found out that a lot of people don’t have that coverage,” Fleenor said. “It’s about $2,300 if not more.”

If you do drive yourself to the airport, she suggests taking a smaller car, rather than a truck or SUV. Also, park under a light pole or near a bus stop that sees more traffic.