Thefts from vehicles have increased 61 percent this year in Atlanta’s police Zone 2, but the driving force isn’t just the demand for laptop computers, Global Positioning System devices and other high-tech gadgets.

Those items are popular targets for thieves, who break into cars when they see computer bags on seats or GPS devices mounted on dashboards, but members of Neighborhood Planning Unit A learned at their monthly meeting Sept. 2 that the hot trend in larcenies from motor vehicles focuses on a piece of 1970s technology: the catalytic converter.

The main draw is the platinum in the converters, Lynn Moscow said in her public safety report to fellow NPU-A board members.

Moscow said thieves can get $135 for catalytic converters from domestic vehicles and $178 for converters from Volvos, which police told her use a higher-quality platinum.

Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, told The Associated Press in July that such thefts have grown into a national epidemic in the past year.

Moscow, fresh from a meeting with police that day, said one thief was pulled over with 50 converters in his car. She said criminals hit parking lots and even residential driveways.

Overall, 1,600 larcenies from vehicles have been reported this year in Zone 2, Moscow said, up from 991 through the start of September in 2007.