It probably was only a matter of time before our community experienced a wave of catalytic converter thefts.

Thefts of the antipollution devices located on the underside of cars and trucks are skyrocketing across the country. They were bound to jump here as well.

Washington police say they are investigating a dozen or more reports of catalytic converter thefts over the past 30 days. Twenty-four of the devices have been stolen so far this year, four of them on Monday alone.

The devices look like mufflers and attach to a vehicle’s emissions system. Thieves covet the converters because they contain trace amounts of precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium.

The values of all three metals have spiked in recent years, which is driving the thefts, according to law enforcement officials. Rhodium is going for over $10,000 an ounce on the black market, although only a tiny fraction is found in a typical converter.

Recyclers will pay between $50 and $250 for a catalytic converter, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a nonprofit devoted to combating insurance fraud and vehicle theft. The metals can be sold for even more if stolen from a hybrid gas-electric car such as a Prius, pushing the value to anywhere from $800 to $1,500.

Removing a catalytic converter takes only a few minutes using some basic, readily available, battery-operated tools from a local hardware store, according to NICB CEO David Glawe.

Brazen thieves are sliding under cars in broad daylight and sawing them off, according to police here and around the country. It can cost the victim of the theft anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to replace the converter and to repair the damage.

The rash of catalytic converter thefts are another reason the public should be vigilant in reporting any suspicious behavior to police. If you spot someone crawling underneath a vehicle on a street or in a parking lot that you don’t recognize, there is a strong likelihood they are up to no good.