Police: Thieves targeting cars in CTA Orange Line Pulaski parking lot

October 3, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Hundreds of cars are parked here every day on the city's Southwest Side. The drivers are usually gone for hours, and there's no attendant or surveillance camera. It all adds up to a rash of break-ins.

James Kepouros runs Jay-Kay Collision, an auto repair business two blocks from the Pulaski Orange Line parking lot, and has seen first-hand what criminals have done here.

"Customer came in, broken window, shattered the glass, tore the dashboard apart to try and get the radio out," said James Kepouros, Jay-Kay Collision.

Despite beefed up police patrols, the vehicle break-ins have continued since the summer at the lot at 51st and Pulaski, where passing trains and airplanes from nearby Midway Airport can easily mask the sound of someone shattering a window.

"I do see broken windows as I'm walking to my car. There's glass in the spots and on the floor," said Monica, who uses the parking lot but declined to give her last name.

Commuters say there are few other nearby options where a vehicle can be parked all day, something the thieves know. They've stolen gps devices, car stereos, cell phones and other electronics.

"We just ask the public to not leave valuables in plain sight or anywhere in the vehicle," said Sgt. Gerardo Teneyuque, Chicago Police Department.

But many who park here have lost more than just items inside the car. At nearby expert auto centers, owner Hamza Hassan receives as many as five cars a week that have had their catalytic converters stolen.

ABC7's Eric Horng asks, "How many of them are from that parking lot, 51st and Pulaski?"

"I'd say over 80 percent of them come from that parking lot," said Hamza Hassan, Expert Auto Centers.

A car's engine sounds terrible once the part is missing. A catalytic converter can be sold for scrap for more than $100, and it takes less than a minute to saw one off a car.

"Pretty much lay flat under it. It takes about ten, fifteen seconds to cut one side. Then the other side, real quick. The thing's off. They're out of there," said Hassan.

Replacing a catalytic converter can cost hundreds of dollars, and losing a cell phone or GPS of course isn't cheap either. Police again are urging people not to leave valuables in the car.

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