One day after someone stole 17 catalytic converters from a Forest Park parking lot, police interrupted three suspected thieves at the same lot and made two arrests, a small punch back against a string of recent thefts that echoes a national trend.
An employee of a cab company in the 7400 block of Roosevelt Road was watching security camera footage early on the morning of Dec. 18 when they noticed several suspicious people entering the lot and called 911. As police arrived, one of the men yelled “run” and three people attempted to flee. Two of them — Danny L. Allen, 28, of Chicago, and Darius J. Madison, 31, of Chicago — were arrested and have been charged with felony burglary. Both men denied any role in the thefts the previous night.
When the men were arrested, police also recovered a litany of tools of the trade, including saws, blades and jacks. The video footage allegedly showed the men jacking up several vehicles, then making multiple trips back and forth to the lot’s fence, where officers also discovered several catalytic converters that had already been removed.
Forest Park Chief of Police Ken Gross said the pace of catalytic converter thefts has been “cyclical” throughout his career, but in a less than two week stretch starting Dec. 20, Forest Park police responded to at least five separate reported thefts, and that doesn’t include the brazen 17-converter heist pulled off at the cab company Dec. 17.
Police departments across the country are responding to more and more catalytic converter thefts be- cause of the trace amounts of precious metals — including platinum, palladium and rhodium —- that they contain. Scrappers are paying top dollar for the metals as the global market spikes, and while there are no scrap yards in Forest Park, there are plenty in the surrounding area. According to the Associated Press, a single catalytic converter can fetch between $50 and $300.
Thieves are able to steal the converters fairly quickly, as well, typically using a saw or other device to cut them off the vehicle’s exhaust system.
In response, Gross said residents should try and park in a garage, if possible, and pay attention to any unusual sawing or cutting sounds they hear, especially in the middle of the night, when most thefts are occur- ring. Gross said several companies have also begun marketing catalytic converter protection devices that are available for purchase online, although they may need to be installed by a mechanic.