CLEVELAND — The Northeast Ohio Property Crimes Task Force reported a significant increase in local catalytic converter thefts, as the resale price for the precious metals inside the converters continues to rise.
Police in Cleveland, Twinsburg, North Olmsted, Brooklyn Heights and more have reported thefts at multiple business locations over the past several months.
The task force released data that indicated there were 141 cases of catalytic converter thefts reported in Cleveland in 2018, 368 cases in 2019, 393 cases in 2020, and 94 cases reported in just the first 20 days of 2021.
Investigators told News 5 the crooks are hitting private homes, businesses and even local charities like Windfall Industries in Wadsworth. The agency provides up to 3,000 rides monthly to hundreds of people with disabilities who need a way to get to their jobs.
Executive Director Jim Brown said thieves stole converters off of nine vans in three separate visits, causing more than $20,000 in needed repairs and security upgrades.
“The thought that they would take from a nonprofit that provides the level of service that we do," Brown said. “The first time was only one van, the second time was a couple of vans, and then the last night they got six vans worth."
We had to put up a secured fenced in the parking lot, so we have additional cost in storage for the vans now because we don’t feel it’s safe to leave them in our parking lot.”
"It’s disappointing to me that they would take the ability for somebody with a disability to get to work. I guess I just wish people would care about others.”
The nonprofit organization has set-up a GoFundMe fundraiser in an effort to help recover from its losses and maintain its vital services to the community.
Detective Eric Hendershott with the Twinsburg Police Department said his department has been able to make some arrests in stolen catalytic converter cases in recent months.
“It’s challenging because they sell them to the black market where things can’t be tracked," Hendershott said. It is shocking how quickly they can get in there and get out with a handful of converters."
“We had three or four businesses that were hit in the span of two nights, and the total losses for those three to four businesses was about $40,000," he said.
Hendershott recommended business and private homes improve outdoor lighting, and add well-positioned security cameras with motion activation that can alert a smartphone. Hendershott said both can be a good deterrent and help police make an arrest.
“Usually the video cameras are too far away to catch any sort of plate, which obviously is crucial," Hendershott said. They do actually make converter guards that you can install underneath your car.”
Meanwhile, the Northeast Ohio Property Crimes Task Force told News 5 it's working with the Ohio Attorney General's office on proposed legislation that would potentially restrict the sale of precious metals from catalytic converters to licensed scrap dealers.