FAIRFIELD — Police arrested two men this week in connection with the theft of a catalytic converter in what officers say is the latest case of the auto part being stolen for the precious metals it contains.

Police identified the men as Mathew Flanders, 35, of Athens and David Norrie, 46, of Palmyra. Both have been charged with theft and criminal mischief. Their court dates were set for Jan. 22 at Skowhegan District Court. Both later posted bail.

Officer Casey Dugas of the Fairfield Police Department said Thursday at least a dozen catalytic converter thefts have been reported recently in the town. He added police in other communities have also investigated similar thefts.

A catalytic converter is part of vehicles’ emission control system that reduces the amount of pollutants by converting them into less-harmful substances. Catalytic converter are often targeted for theft, Dugas said, because they contain metals that can be recycled and sold at premium prices.

The latest incident began Wednesday when a Fairfield resident returned home from work to find a GMC pickup truck in his driveway. As the resident spoke with the driver of the pickup, a second man appeared from behind the home holding a catalytic converter that apparently had been taken from another vehicle the resident owned and that was parked behind the house, according to police.

The second man got into the pickup truck and drove away, according to police. The resident followed the truck and called 911.

Fairfield police were alerted, and Dugas and Officer Nolan Allen located the pickup on River Road in Benton.

When the officers stopped the pickup truck, the passenger ran into the backyard of a nearby residence, but was caught and arrested. The driver was also arrested. Police seized the truck and recovered the catalytic converter.

Dugas said those who are concerned about their vehicles should lock them in a garage or keep them in lighted areas.

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