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A nonprofit falls victim to catalytic converter theft twice leaving students with no rides

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Posted at 6:19 PM, Sep 30, 2021

CLEVELAND — At Horizon Education Centers, hundreds of students are provided with an education, but that program has been disrupted at their Cleveland location due to catalytic thefts.

“You know this is a big deal, it is going to impact a lot of kids it impacts our safety,” said David H Smith, Executive Director of Horizon Education centers.

The first theft happened on September 11, surveillance video shows a person driving around in a truck, then parking and taking the converters from three buses.

Then on Sept. 16, Smith says the man returned on a bike. The criminal hopped the fence and stole one more converter, leaving students without rides.

“The parents had to provide the transportation, which is very difficult for the parents because there's just really no way, we could do it,” Smith said. “We can't send the kids in taxi cabs, and we can't send them on city buses."

These thefts don't only affect Horizon centers. It's an issue all of Northeast Ohio is dealing with.

“This year we've seen an increase in thefts. To date, we've had 24 total thefts. In March, we had seven, and in July we had six reported,” said Streetsboro Lieutenant Richard Polivka.

But, why are these metal pieces that are meant to remove harmful emissions from your car such a hot commodity? William Robinson, the general manager at Terry's NorthCoast Auto, said it's all about the honeycomb material.

“The catalyst is built out of a couple of precious metals one of them being platinum that platinum pays a lot of money when you recycle it,” said Robinson.

In the last year Robinson and the garage have seen at least 100 thefts saying if your car sits high up criminals can get in fast. Then sell the piece for $25 to $500.

“So, there's a lot of people in pickup trucks that drive around and buy converters from different shops they also advertise on social media that they'll buy them for high dollar, or you can sell them at any local scrap yards,” said Robinson.

While the replacement can range from $300 to $2,500. Horizon says they have spent nearly $40,000 in the past two to three years replacing stolen converters from all their locations. They just hope it won't put them out of business.

“We’re in a pandemic. Things are really tough economically, and you never know what the straw is going to be that's going to break the camel's back,” Smith said.“And certainly, these expenses that are caused by thieves that are killing us."

There haven't been any arrests in those thefts from Horizon.