Thursday, March 14, 2013

Catalytic converter thefts

The Crime Analysis Unit spotted an emerging crime pattern consisting of 17 catalytic converter thefts since the series began on January 14. This compares with a total of 31 in Lincoln during the entire year of 2012. Just a few years ago, I was slightly alarmed by six in eight months.

This is a good example of the value of crime analysis. I was unaware of this trend, and I imagine few if any officers knew about it. Even if you investigated one personally, you would be unlikely to know about other cases reported to other officers on other beats, other shifts, and other days off. Alerting officers to a crime series like this is very good police work.

Catalytic converters contain small amounts of precious metals, such as rhodium and platinum. As a result, they command a hefty price at scrap yards, around $100-$200. That is small potatoes, though, compared to the typical cost of a tow, repairing the damage, and replacing the converter, which runs in the range of $500 to $1,500.

These converters are being sawed off with a hacksaw, or possibly a battery-powered reciprocating saw. Either way, it takes some time and makes a little noise. Some have occurred at an indeterminate time over a period of a few days, but others were cut off in broad daylight. We could really benefit from a little more public awareness. If you happen to see a pair of feet sticking out from beneath a car in a parking lot, we'd like to get a a call.

About half of these recent thefts have occurred in the rectangle bordered by 48th and 84th, A and O Streets.   In late breaking news, an arrest was made Thursday that may clear up some or all of these cases.  Nonethless, with the value of these converters, this won't be the last spree, and vigilance will be good.


Steve said...

If I see a pair of feet sticking out from under my vehicles, I'm afraid Arrrrg!!!! will have some more peg-legged companions.

Anonymous said...

I've got a problem with shifty scrap dealers who buy scrap of questionable origin from questionable characters, and just barely meet the requirements of the law doing when doing so. Good scrapyards won't touch CCs that don't come from a legitimate salvage biz, or copper wire that doesn't come from a legit electrician or a "housewrecker" (insert generic Angelina Jolie homewrecker joke here).

I think that when your spidey sense tells you that meth-bug-faced guy is at your scrap yard with 13 catcons that all look pretty new and have obviously been hacked off with a sawzall, you should at least restrict them to a direct deposit to a bank account (try getting one of those without a gubmint ID) ten days later, even if they have the local permit to sell scrap. Maybe the state needs a sdrap permit law similar to Lincoln's local ordinance.

Anonymous said...


Is there a known problem with people selling scrap from Lincoln at scrapyards out in the surrounding county where they don't need a permit to trade scrap?