Thieves targeting catalytic converters in Elgin

  • Thefts of catalytic converters are the rise nationwide because of the skyrocketing value of the precious metals the emission control devices contain.

    Thefts of catalytic converters are the rise nationwide because of the skyrocketing value of the precious metals the emission control devices contain. Utah Attorney General's Office via AP

 
 
Updated 3/18/2022 2:42 PM

Elgin has not been immune to the state and national explosion in catalytic converter thefts.

Police Chief Ana Lalley reported a three-fold increase in such thefts in the city this year compared to 2021 during her weekly radio show Friday.

 

Elgin police logged 21 catalytic converter thefts as of last week. That compares to seven thefts of the easy-to-remove devices during the same timeframe last year. This isn't the first time Elgin residents have been plagued by catalytic converter thefts.

"A couple of years ago, we had a lot," Lalley said. "Then it disappeared, and now we saw the spike at the beginning of this year."

The crimes are part of a nationwide trend fueled by the skyrocketing value of the precious metals catalytic converters contain. The platinum, palladium and rhodium contained in the converters can net a thief up to $875 per converter, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. But it can cost up to $3,000 for a vehicle owner to replace a converter.

The thefts can occur in less than 5 minutes. And larger vehicles can sometimes have multiple catalytic converters, making them especially attractive to thieves. Toyota Priuses are also high-value targets because their converters contain more precious metals.

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A report last July by Bloomington-based State Farm said catalytic converter thefts rose 293% nationwide between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. That accounted for more than 18,000 thefts compared to 4,500 the previous year. In the first six months of 2021, State Farm paid out more than $21 million in insurance claims related to the thefts.

Lake County, Schaumburg and Des Plaines all reported multiple catalytic converter thefts or arrests related to such thefts in the past few months.

Lalley said there are simple measures Elgin residents can take to reduce their chances of becoming victims of catalytic converter thefts.

She encouraged residents with garages to use those to block thieves from getting to their vehicles. For residents who must park outside, parking in well-lit areas and those with prominent security cameras can also be a deterrent. That means making sure porch and driveway light bulbs are bright and functioning.

"And if you see somebody under a car, call us," Lalley said.

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