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Catalytic converter thefts continue to batter Bloomington

This photo provided by the Phoenix Police Department shows stolen catalytic converters that were recoverd after detectives served a search warrant at a storage unit in Phoenix on Thursday, May 27, 2022. The bust came amid a national surge in thefts of the pricy auto parts that play a critical in reducing vehicle emissions and has led lawmakers in 36 states and in Washington D.C. to consider new laws to address the problem. (Phoenix Police Department via AP)
Phoenix Police Department
Bloomington is not the only American city dealing with a catalytic converter theft issue. It’s happening all across the nation.

Catalytic converter thefts have increased dramatically in Bloomington, according to the Bloomington Police Department.

A July 9 post from the official BPD Facebook page said there had been 19 reported thefts since July 4. Over the most recent weekend, Officer Brandt Parsley said an additional 15 were called in. He also said the thefts are happening “all over the place,” not just on a couple of bad streets.

Catalytic converters are stolen for their precious metals. The most valuable of metals in the converters are palladium, rhodium and even platinum. After sawing off the converters, thieves often take them to salvage yards. There, the catalytic converters are melted down and the metals extracted. They’re worth a pretty platinum penny.

There is not a fool-proof way to prevent your car from getting its catalytic converter stolen, according to Parsley. But parking in an enclosed garage — or in a well-lit area of an outdoor one — is one of the best ways to protect yourself. So is utilizing cameras.

“If you put cameras on the outside of your house, you can back your car up to where it’s covered by the cameras,” said Parsley. “Sometimes if they see cameras, they’ll just move on.”

There are also catalytic converter shields on the market, built to resist the rechargeable reciprocating saws thieves use to remove the converters from vehicles. But Parsley said he’s not entirely sold on their efficacy.

Something that can help prevent future crimes, he said, is catching the current criminals. But Parsley said it will take the public’s help to do that.

"This is one of those [situations] where we need help. Because the public has a better chance of seeing these people, and maybe grabbing a license plate … always call,” said Parsley. “If you see something, say something. That’s what we always say.”

Catching a thief in the act can be difficult. Parsley said the “skilled” thieves take only a minute to swipe a converter from a car.

Bloomington is not the only American city dealing with a catalytic converter theft issue. It’s happening all across the nation.

One may point at the warm weather as a cause, as that’s usually when crime rises. As the winter months move in, crime generally decreases. Parsley said with the status of inflation in the country, he is not so sure these crimes will slow down with colder temperatures.

“I think with the current economic climate, with the cost of food and gas, and everything on the increase — when people can find a way to make a fast buck like this I don’t know that we will see a decline,” said Parsley.

Normal has 25 reports of stolen catalytic converters this year, according to Normal Police Chief Steve Petrilli.

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Jack Podlesnik is a student reporter and announcer at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.
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