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WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) — Westlake police are investigating a “rash” of catalytic converter thefts from residential and commercial parking lots — eight since mid-February and three just this month, said Capt. Gerald Vogel.
These latest thefts have happened at all hours, he told FOX 8 News. Police believe more than one group of thieves is responsible. Such thefts tend to come in “spurts,” he added.
“Then a couple people get arrested and things quiet down for awhile until someone gets released from jail and starts again,” Vogel said.
In surveillance video evidence from an April 5 theft shown to FOX 8 News, a dark-colored SUV can be seen pulling up to the victim’s Honda Element, parked at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center along Center Ridge Road. It happened at about 1:30 p.m.
“The person gets out and cuts off the catalytic converter in about 1 1/2 minutes,” Vogel said.
Another theft was reported just April 6 at the Vine Street parking garage next to Dick’s Sporting Goods in Crocker Park. It happened sometime between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to a police report.
A third theft happened overnight April 1 at a home in the 27000 block of Westchester Parkway.
Catalytic converters are required vehicle components that reduce harmful emissions from exhaust. But they’re a target for thieves for the precious metals they contain. And if they’re stolen, they can cost thousands of dollars to replace.
There were more than 14,000 insurance claims filed for stolen converters in 2020, up from nearly 1,300 claims in 2018, FOX 8 News reported.
State lawmakers are now pushing a new bill to make their theft a felony.
“The current law allows anyone to sell a catalytic converter to a scrap metal dealer and get cash at the time of the sale. The law does nothing to require proof of ownership or where the converter came from or limit the number of converters that can be sold,” said Lt. Michael Binder of Reynoldsburg Police Department.
If passed, the bill would effectively ban the scrap sale of catalytic converters unless the entire car is being scrapped.