As catalytic converter thefts in Illinois increase, how to protect your vehicle and your wallet

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DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) – Some thieves prey on a valuable part of your vehicle.

Law enforcement says this is attributed to the COVID pandemic and people who need the money. The I-Team has investigated a sharp increase in catalytic converter theft and what you can do to prevent it.

Drastic increase in catalytic converter thefts: The soaring number makes Illinois the fifth most targeted state in the country, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

“As soon as I started I heard the loud sound, and I say ‘oh, something is wrong. We’re not going anywhere, “” Jerrold Burke told the I-Team.

The thieves arrested him in his tracks.

“I thought it was going to explode or something,” he said.

They had stolen his catalytic converter.

“I was so sad; I’m going ‘what’s going on,’” Burke said.

His Prius was parked in an open-air apartment lot in Unincorporated Des Plaines.

“So I guess the thieves just jacked up this area right here because they have to shut it down, just turn off the engine, and shut it off right here,” Burke said.

After Burke filed a police report with the Cook County Sheriff, he discovered he was not alone. A detective is working on 12 cases in the area.

Data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau shows that thefts are skyrocketing across the country. In 2019, 3,389 catalytic converter thefts were reported, but in 2020 there were 14,433.

“You can probably tie this to the COVID pandemic and people need the money,” said Leo Schmitz, Chief of Public Safety for the Cook County Sheriff.

Schmitz said numbers in unincorporated Cook County show a similar trend. Last year at this time there were only eight catalytic converter thefts; this year there are already 25.

Chicago police recently issued alerts about several thefts on the near north side.

“It can be done in under two minutes,” Schmitz said. “Here they go under a vehicle, or they can cut it up, pick it up, and they’re going to get silver for metals, precious metals in there, platinum to palladium, rhodium.”

Schmitz said crooks can get $ 150 to $ 500 for your converter.

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He said you should try to park in a lighted place. If you have an alarm, see if you can set it to go off if the car is shaking. You can engrave your VIN number in your converter or spray paint it to deter thieves. You can also add a metal cover.

“It goes on the catalytic converter, and has steel wire, stainless steel wire and things of that nature,” Schmitz said.

“If a thief sees it, it can walk to the next car,” said Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet.

She recommends the blankets.

“They can be expensive, in the range of $ 200 to $ 800, but if your catalytic converter is stolen it is very expensive to replace,” she said. “Three thousand dollars is what we see, so it’s worth protecting it.”

Burke bought a blanket for $ 150; this cost was in addition to what he had paid to replace the stolen part.

“He told me about the $ 900 it would cost to fix it. And I said, ‘Isn’t that wonderful. “”

But Burke believes the extra money will save him in the long run.

“They can possibly spend an additional 20 minutes cutting the shield, but they don’t want to do it,” he said. “They want to start and be out in three minutes.”

The problem is that bad legislation has been introduced in 23 states to tackle the increase in catalytic converter theft.

In Illinois there is a pending invoice, which would require buyers of transformers, such as mechanics, to obtain personal information, including a driver’s license, from people trying to sell them.

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