Catalytic converters targeted by thieves across city, suburbs

September 11, 2013

A catalytic converter is an emissions control device that is connected to your cars exhaust system. If the part is missing, you will hear it.

Margurite Francis' converter was stolen from her car a few weeks ago. Another neighbor was about to leave for work Wednesday morning when she noticed her car had one stolen. And Terrance Cole, who lives across the street in the South Side neighborhood had his catalytic converter taken in August. The thieves were caught on Cole's surveillance camera. They pulled up in a large white SUV at 3 a.m.

"One guy with a flash light and another with a jack and they pulled away in less than 2 minutes," said Terrance Cole, stolen property victim.

This Auburn-Gresham block is not alone. Catalytic converter thefts are common throughout the Chicago area. The parts contain precious metals that can be easily recycled for cash. Police say thieves are getting anywhere from $50-80 for each converter. It can cost upwards of $1,000 to replace a stolen converter.

"It is incumbent upon the recycling center to follow the laws and regulations and the verify the source of the converter," said Cmdr. Eugene Roy, Chicago Police Department.

And to verify the source, the law requires each converter to come with paper work. But Saul De La Torre, a mechanic, says many don't. This muffler shop owner replaces stolen catalytic converters almost every day. His own lot was targeted once.

"It's really hard to prevent it unless they enforce more of the rules," said De La Torre.

It's hard to make out faces in the video and the thieves are still on the loose. But it's happening more often, and throughout the area. Elizabeth Truhlar lives in Naperville.

"It upsets me someone would do this, go under someone's car and take parts from them. It makes me feel not safe," said Elizabeth Truhlar, theft victim.

In the meantime, Marguerite Francis has taken her own preventive measures.

"I make sure my alarm system is on, so if they shake car, it will go off," said Francis.

"These guys have done their homework. They know which ones are worth more than others. And they attack the ones that are worth the most," said Matt Tefka, owner, Fulton/Des Plaines Garage.

For a time, mechanics at the Fulton/Des Plaines garage said they were replacing two or three catalytic converters a week. They said the vehicles most commonly targeted include the Toyota 4-Runner, Honda Element and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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