At least eight catalytic converters were stolen off of cars at two park and rides in the Fallston area last week.
Six were taken at the park and ride on Route 152 at Harford Road, while two were stolen off of cars at the Reckord Road park and ride closer to I-95.
Police, who are looking into other possible thefts at the park and ride at I-95 on Mountain Road or a nearby parking lot, suspect they're all related.
"It's uncommon for that many, for that type of thefts to occur at one time," Sgt. Jeffrey Kloiber, of the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack criminal investigation division, said. "It could have been a group of people working collectively."
Whether it was one person working alone or a group, Kloiber said it was likely someone with a drug habit.
"Most people who steal them are dependent on narcotics," he said. "They're looking to pawn them at a shop or scrap yard so they can buy the substance of their choice, per se."
Police don't have specific details on the thefts, nor on a suspect and are still investigating.
Since the thefts, Maryland State Police have increase their patrol checks in the park and rides. Anyone with information about the thefts, or whose catalytic converter might have been stolen, is asked to call Kloiber at 410-879-2101, ext. 318.
One of the women reporting a theft said she left her car and got on the bus around 6:20 a.m. Sept. 25 and when she got back at 4:30 p.m., noticed it was gone.
Many of the victims discovered the thefts after talking about it with their fellow bus commuters.
Depending on the make and model, and on how much damage is done removing it, a catalytic converter is worth several hundred dollars; replacing it with a new one costs substantially more.
And it's a relatively easy steal, Kloiber said, depending how it's removed. A torch isn't loud and will cut easily; a saw cuts quickly, but makes a lot more noise.
"To me, it would be very noticeable to see to someone driving by," he said. "You see someone lying under a car, but depending on where it's parked, you're not necessarily going to see someone lying under a car if you're not looking for it."
For obvious reasons, park and rides are busiest during the morning and evening traffic rush, so the thefts are most likely to occur during the day.
It should also be pretty obvious when a catalytic converter has been stolen, since there is no muffler for the exhaust to go through.
"The noise is not muffled, it would be extremely loud," Kloiber said. "It would sound like there's no muffler on the car."
One of the other problems police run into is that park and rides are often used to sell cars, which is not permitted. If they have time, troopers patrol the parking lots daily, making notes of which cars are there. Those that sit for more than a day, troopers will call the owner and ask them to remove their cars, Kloiber said.
When thieves strike, they're usually breaking windows and taking the valuable items, like stereos or GPS equipment.
"We have not been hit with thefts at any park and rides, except the converters, in several months," Kloiber said.