BILLINGS — Three catalytic converters were stolen off vans belonging to Kid Country Child Development Center over the weekend, another in a recent series of thefts that show the crime epidemic is on the rise in Billings once again.
"We were aware it was happening around the city," said owner Kaycee Hodges. "We just didn’t think it would happen to us because we have our vehicles in a locked, fenced area."
The west end daycare has plenty of safety precautions, including a locked gate attached to a six-foot chain-link fence all the way around the back parking lot where their six vans are kept. There are multiple security cameras, as well as lights along the entire outside wall.
But that hasn't deterred thieves, who are after the precious metals inside the converters. This is the second time converters have been stolen from the business, and Hodges now believes nothing will stop them, even a moral plea.
"They don’t care that we work with kids," she said. "It doesn’t matter to them. If it’s available, they’ll take it."
Q2 reported several stories on the topic earlier this year, the last in May. Thefts plummeted to a monthly low of four in June and just nine in July. But September saw a huge increase: 37 reported by the Billings Police Department, more than the previous four months combined.
Hodges said she will try new strategies.
"We’re going to get cages on the bottom of our vans. I’ve heard it doesn’t work that well but we’re going to do it anyway," she said. "We're getting a floodlight, and we're building a taller wooden fence on the outside of the chain link."
But she can’t afford for this to keep happening. The weekend incident cost her over $5,000, and she knows she’s not the only business suffering.
"So many people reached out to me, saying that the same thing is happening to them," she said. "Other child care providers, one of the blood banks here in town. They’re targeting any kind of commercial vehicle that is sitting overnight."
Thousands of cars, with owners hoping they’re not the next victim.