Gone In 60 Seconds: Catalytic Converter Thieves Return To Lakeview

Lakeview East residents on Facebook’s Taking Back Lakeview Neighbors group are reporting that catalytic converter thieves have returned to the area.  Separately, a CWBChicago reader contacted us with information about how some of these teams cover up the noise generated by sawing metal parts off of cars.

Start-to-finish, two offenders needed less than a minute to remove a catalytic converter from one SUV in a video posted to the Lakeview neighborhood watch group and Reddit this weekend. Video of the theft is published here with permission of the victim.

An out-of-town crew whose work is posted on YouTube required 45 seconds to roll up on a car, saw off the converter, and start driving away.

In the second video, the thieves conceal their activities by having the sawman do his work while hidden between the target vehicle and the get-away car. Some committed city residents will only park in spaces where the driver’s side is next to the curb. It’s not fool-proof, but it does make it a lot harder to access a catalytic converter.

So, how do they cover up the sound of sawing through metal pipe?

According to a CWBChicago reader who witnessed a catalytic converter theft in 2016, the answer is incredibly simple: They blast their car audio system.

“The vehicle had an aftermarket sound system with the volume turn up very loud  Then I heard them sawing the metal on the exhaust.  This was at 5:43 am and I immediately called 911,” he said. The driver stood as lookout while the passenger did the sawing, he said.

Our reader said he saw the crew hit three cars in six minutes before police arrived.

“Each time they drove up to the vehicle, put their hazards on, turned up the music, and the driver got out and stood in the street while the passenger slid under the vehicle to remove the catalytic converter.”

So, that loud thumping music you hear briefly at night may be much more than a partier arriving home from a night on the town.

Why Steal Catalytic Converters?

A stack of stolen catalytic converters

Thieves love stealing catalytic converters because the parts contain expensive metals including platinum and palladium that can demand payments of $100 to $200 at scrap yards.

SUVs are often targeted because their high ground clearance makes it easier to access the undercarriage with a saw.

Victims almost never know that their catalytic converter has been stolen until they start their car. That’s when they’ll be startled by a loud, roaring sound of their freshly-unmuffled engine.

Some suggestions to make it more difficult to steal your catalytic converter include:

• Welding the converter’s bolts in place or having the bolt heads cut off to make removal nearly impossible
• Having your license plate number engraved on the part to make resale more difficult
• Always park your car in a garage, if available. If not, consider parking with the driver’s side next to the curb.
• Install a catalytic converter theft prevention kit that essentially places a cage around the part, making theft impossible

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com