Akron police investigate string of catalytic converter thefts

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)- With a fleet of more than 40 transport vans and buses, hundreds across the Akron area and beyond may rely on United Disability Services to get them to and from meaningful activities.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the agency had to suspend some of its activities after thieves targeted their fleet of transport vehicles for a second straight weekend, stealing catalytic converters.

Thirteen catalytic converters were stolen from their fleet this past weekend, a week after thieves stole catalytic converters from five of their vehicles.

Some of those that were damaged this past weekend had just been repaired the week before.

"Well the impact is significant it’s because it is costly repairs. We do have insurance but we do have deductibles and we also have the ripple effect of people who are unable to be served and revenues that are derived from our services, so it really is debilitating for the agency itself," said Brian Thomas, the UDS President and CEO.

They are not alone. Akron police say they have taken about 50 individual reports of catalytic converter thefts in just the past two weeks.

Among them was Christopher Marshall of Plur. Inc.,  whose work van was also targeted, leaving him unable to do business until it can be repaired.

Marshall says he has no idea when that will be because getting the parts is not easy since there is a backlog due in part to the large number of thefts.

The UDS vans are being repaired at PTS Automotive in Akron. Keith Johnson says the repairs can be costly.

"On this vehicle (one of the UDS transport vans) in particular, I believe the converter itself, just for the part, is about a thousand bucks. That's not including the labor part to have it installed or the price for the oxygen sensor or the hardware or whatever else it might need," said Johnson

Mitchell estimates his repair will cost him more than $15,000.

Police have surveillance video showing two men working to remove the catalytic converters from the UDS vans.

The agency meanwhile has hired full-time security to watch over their fleet, hoping to prevent themselves from being victimized a third time.

Police say scrapyards are required to keep records of their transactions and to their knowledge, most, if not all, of the scrap yards in the immediate area comply with the requirement.

Investigators are asking residents to be aware of any suspicious activity and report it immediately.

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