Sunday, October 21, 2018

Cops getting closer to North Side catalytic converter thieves...but no arrests yet

A catalytic converter
Readers and police sources have provided a string of information to CWBChicago this month about some of the North Side’s biggest and most persistent pests: catalytic converter and wheel thieves.

Theft and resale of converters, which are pollution control devices that contain precious metals, is an attractive career path for some Chicagoans. Replacement of the part will cost victims about $1,800. Thieves typically make about $150 per part.

These theft crews seem to slip in and out of neighborhoods, sawing converters off of the bottom of vehicles and ripping tires from their mounts, without ever being caught.

In fact, since CWBChicago launched over five years ago, we’ve only reported on *one* case of catalytic converter thieves being caught.

But something is different lately. We’re getting more information from readers about these crews and cops are being called more often while thefts are actually in progress. Unfortunately, officers have not yet caught up with the criminals.

Here’s what we have learned:
• A crew currently working the North Side has been striking between 3 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. with nearly all eyewitness reports coming in on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
• Reports have come in from across the North Side. Lincoln Park to Uptown and Lakeview to North Center.
• Last Tuesday and Wednesday, a crew was said to be using a white Nissan. The week before, their vehicle was described as a white sedan or a white Lexus.
• The crew pulls up next to the targeted vehicle and two or three men get out while wheels or converters or wheels removed. They are gone within 60 seconds.
Here are details we have received recently:
• Tuesday, September 11, 4:47 a.m. men in a dark blue Camry took parts from a red SUV in the 400 block of West Aldine
• Monday, September 24, 5:20 a.m. two men in a white sedan with no hubcaps are seen stealing a catalytic converter in the 800 block of West George
• Wednesday, October 3, 5:00 a.m.: Officers in the Albany Park (17th) Police District report seeing four offenders in a black BMW stealing converters. The offenders—described as black males in their late teens or early 20’s—escape from police.
• Tuesday, October 9, 5:20 a.m. a witness sees a man in a white Lexus removing parts from another Lexus that is parked near Leavitt and Eastwood
• Tuesday, October 9, 5:34 a.m. another witness reports seeing two men stealing catalytic converters in the 2200 block of West Giddings
• Wednesday, October 10, 3:20 a.m. a witness reports seeing two men stealing catalytic converters near Hermitage and George. 
• Tuesday, October 16, 1:27 a.m. a 911 caller reports men standing near a parked vehicle in the 1300 block of West Wellington. They are stealing parts from a Honda Element
• Tuesday, October 16, 5:30 a.m. another witness reports seeing two men stealing parts from a car in the 1900 block of West Warner. They are driving a white Nissan.
• Tuesday, October 16, a CWBChicago reader’s catalytic converter is stolen from their daughter’s Hyundai Tucson near Addison and Damen.
• Wednesday, October 17, 5:12 a.m. a witness reports that two men in a stolen white four-door Nissan bearing a license plate that begins with DUB16 are trying to steal converters in the 2200 block of West Belmont.
• Wednesday, October 17, 6:33 a.m. a passer-by reports seeing two black males in a white Nissan double-parked near Wilson and Ashland. They are stealing a catalytic converter.
Be warned, though. While our list of reports seems to favor Tuesday and Wednesday as popular days for the theft crews to be working, all indications are that teams work throughout the week.

But, if you happen to be an early riser and you hear sawing outside in the pre-dawn hours, try to convey as much info as you can to police via 911. We're really hoping that we'll soon be writing our second story about catalytic converter theft arrests!