CLEVELAND — On Monday, we learned thieves were able to get away with 35 catalytic converters stolen from Cleveland Metropolitan School District buses, affecting routes for the day.
These thefts are a growing trend, not just in Northeast Ohio, but across the country. Thieves are becoming even more brazen as the value of these stolen parts are rising.
In this case, they cut a hole through a fence to steal the converters off of buses sometime late Sunday or early Monday from the bus depot in Cuyahoga Heights.
But these thefts are happening all over.
Police in Streetsboro say converters were taken from 3 vehicles parked at city hall and 2 more at the parks and recreation department just weeks ago. They’re also partnering with several neighboring departments who are seeing a similar rise in incidents as thieves look to make a quick buck.
"It’s just a theft they can do quickly, easily. They use a Sawzall, they cut the converter off and they’re gone in a matter of minutes," explains Lt. Richard Polivka of the Streetsboro Police Department.
The fix? A proposed law from State Rep. Bob Young of Green that would require scrappers keep track of who is bringing in potentially stolen parts.
"It’s going to put a lot of the burden on the buyers of these catalytic converters that they need to do their due diligence and know who they’re buying from. And know that that person they’re buying from does actually own it," says Young. "For every converter they have, they’re going to have to take a picture of it, and take a picture of the person where it came from. They’re going to have to retain those records."
House Bill 408 has more than 21 co-sponsors. In addition to requiring scrappers to verify a person owns the catalytic converter, it would also impose fines for those who break the rules and take in stolen parts.
"No one wants to create additional regulations for businesses, but I feel these businesses are creating a market for these thieves," explains Young, who has been a victim of theft himself.
State Farm reported that these types of thefts are up almost 300% nationwide using data from the 2nd half of last year compared to the first half of this year. And, of course, that only counts the number of people filing claims.
Thieves can make up to a few hundred dollars for each stolen part. But each repair costs theft victims somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on the car – then there’s the lost time and headache that goes with it.
Meanwhile, Rep. Young admits House bill 408 won’t get rid of the problem altogether, but says if it stops some criminals -- that’s progress. He hopes to get the bill signed into law by summer.
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