Tuesday, August 13, 2019

They're baaaaack: Catalytic converter thieves targeting cars in Lincoln Park and Lakeview

The aftermath of a catalytic converter theft. | Seth Sawyer on Flickr
The slippery auto parts thieves who work Chicago’s neighborhoods in the dark of night have returned to Lincoln Park and Lakeview, according to recent police reports.

Witnesses have seen catalytic converter thieves at work in the area several times in recent weeks. But police have remained one step behind the criminals.

Thieves love stealing catalytic converters from the undersides of cars because the parts contain expensive metals, including platinum and palladium that can demand payments of $100 to $200 at scrap yards.
 
One crew working the North Side has been seen using a black Chevy four-door, possibly an Impala, according to witnesses who spoke with police in different locations.

Last Wednesday, two men were seen using the Chevy to escape after sawing off a couple of catalytic converters in the 2600 block of North Dayton around 4:30 a.m.

On Aug. 1st, a black Chevy Impala with a dealer plate was used by men who were tampering with a parked car in the 800 block of West Wolfram around 5 a.m.

Back on July 22nd, a witness saw a man crawl under a car in the 1300 block of West Schubert. The apparent thief fled in a silver Audi after the witness yelled at him around 5 a.m. About an hour later, a witness in the North Center neighborhood reported seeing two men preparing to steal a catalytic converter near Bradley Avenue and Hoyne Place. They fled when they saw her.

Police recently issued a community alert about a catalytic converter team working Lincoln Park and the Near North area. Investigators connected five cases to a specific pattern in the area. Those converter thefts were reported July 17th on the 1000 block of West Belden and the 2200 block of North Bissell; July 23rd on the 2000 block of North Dayton; July 24th on the 1300 block of North Mohawk; and July 26th on the 1800 block of North Burling.

SUVs are often targeted because their high ground clearance makes it easier to access the undercarriage with a saw. Victims rarely know that their catalytic converter has been stolen until they start their car. That’s when they’ll be startled by a loud, roaring sound of their freshly-unmuffled engine.

Want to make your car's catalytic converter less attractive to thieves? Try these tips:
• Weld the converter’s bolts in place or having the bolt heads cut off to make removal nearly impossible.  
• Have your license plate number engraved on the part to make resale more difficult.
• Always park your car in a garage, if available. If not, consider parking with the driver’s side next to the curb (this makes accessing the converter a little more difficult).  
• Install a catalytic converter theft prevention kit that essentially places a cage around the part, making theft nearly impossible.
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