In two recent attempts, would-be thieves targeted vehicles in the parking lot for the Cady Hill Forest trails to steal their catalytic converters.
Though unsuccessful, the attempts to remove the expensive auto part that helps regulate emissions left the targeted vehicles damaged and in need of repair.
At 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12, Lauren Hwang-Finkelman, who serves with AmeriCorps and the Stowe Trials Partnership, arrived in the parking lot for Cady Hills Forest in order to work on the trails.
When she returned to her car around noon, something didn’t sound right. She drove her vehicle to a nearby mechanic, who informed her that a piece of her muffler had been removed in a likely attempt to nab her catalytic converter.
The incident left her feeling paranoid about parking in the main lot for the trail.
“The last time I was doing service work, I parked at a different area for the same trail network just because it would really suck to happen twice,” she said.
Later that same day, Kevin Murphy, a resident of Morrisville, was mountain biking and also found something not quite right when he drove away.
When he took the car to Larsen’s Auto in Morrisville, he was informed that someone had tried to cut out his catalytic converter as well. Murphy reported the incident to Stowe Police and Stowe Trails Partnership, who he praised for being receptive and responsive.
Murphy thought back to his ride earlier that day and recalled seeing a suspicious figure lurking at The Green Chair, a section of the Cady Hill Forest trail, who he now suspects could have been a lookout for the unsuccessful converter theft operation.
“I hope that it’s not going to be an ongoing thing because it’s always been a safe town,” Murphy said. “I’m not leaving my car unlocked anywhere. I have a standup paddleboard that I just kind of keep on the roof. Well, guess what? I got a cable. I locked that to my rack as well, so somebody can’t just commit a crime of opportunity. It’s just a shame to think that that’s what’s happening in our town.”
According to Rachel Fussell, executive director of Stowe Trails Partnership, these two incidents are the first such theft reported at trails in town. Though Fussell and the partnership hope this was an isolated incident, they’re spreading a word of warning and working with police to prevent it from happening again.
Catalytic converters contain precious metals like platinum and rhodium and can fetch hundreds of dollars on the black market or be sold for scrap.
According to Stowe Police, the attempts on Hwang-Finkelman and Murphy are the only recently reported attempted thefts of the auto part.
“As far as advice for would-be trail-goers, I would say to remain vigilant to your surroundings and understand that if something seems weird or out of place make a report to police,” said Sgt. Frederick Whitcomb. “Second, it is always recommended to lock your doors and keep valuables with you or out of sight inside your car when practical. We are very fortunate to have the ability to use the mountain bike trails in Stowe, so together we need to watch out for each other and report suspicious behavior.”