Over the past two weeks, Forest Park’s police department has seen an increase in the number of catalytic converter thefts. And Forest Park’s not alone. Oak Park, Brookfield and North Riverside have experienced a similar trend in people removing and stealing the auto part from cars.
In North Riverside, catalytic converters were cut from 14 vehicles in a car dealership overnight between May 11 and 12. In Brookfield, a resident reported one stolen on May 18. In Forest Park, at least seven have been stolen from vehicles around town since May 10. Oak Park has seen several similar thefts too.
According to Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas, there has definitely been an increase lately in the illegal removal and theft of catalytic converters, which act as exhaust emission control devices on cars.
“This type of theft was popular a few years ago but dwindled,” said Aftanas.
He explained the logistics of stealing a catalytic converter: “A person has to crawl under a vehicle and use a Sawzall [reciprocating saw] to cut the pipe on both ends of the converter to remove it. It can be done quickly, but it can be noisy.”
In fact, a North Riverside victim of a recent catalytic converter theft was alerted to the crime occurring because he heard what sounded like an electric saw.
Aftanas said the thieves steal converters to sell them to scrap yards because inside them are metals, including platinum, that make them valuable.
Catalytic converters can be sold to scrap yards or online to metal recyclers for anywhere from $30 to over $100, depending on where you sell it and what kind of converter it is.
For unfortunate victims of cat thefts, a brand-new catalytic converter can cost anywhere from as low as $50 to upwards of $1,000, depending on what kind of car and converter you need. But installation, if you don’t know how to do it yourself, can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars onto the cost.
Aftanas said he’s unsure if all the crimes are related or not, though he said the police department does have the description of an offending vehicle involved in several incidents that occurred on the same day.