Cops find 26 sawn-off catalytic converters in man’s back seat. He’s charged with a misdemeanor.

Darrian Russell | CPD

Chicago police allegedly found a West Side man driving a car with 26 catalytic converters in its back seat — just three weeks after he was charged with trying to steal a catalytic converter on the North Side — but he’s only charged with a misdemeanor. Did we mention he’s also on parole?

Around 4 a.m. on December 3, police responded to calls of men cutting catalytic converters off cars on the 1200 block of West Glenlake in Edgewater. They arrived in time to see a vehicle double-parked with its trunk lie raised and two men standing next to a Prius raised on a jack, according to a CPD report.

The double-parked car drove away as police closed in, and the two men ran away. Cops chased one of them, and they eventually found Darrian Russell, 36, hiding in a back yard. They said he had a reciprocating saw blade in his hoodie pocket.

A witness later reported seeing Russell steal a catalytic converter from another Prius and put it into the idling car before moving on to the jacked-up vehicle police allegedly saw him standing near.

Russell was charged with reckless conduct, criminal damage to property, theft, and attempted theft, all of which are misdemeanors. According to court records, he pleaded guilty to one count of theft on January 6, and prosecutors dropped all of the other charges in exchange for two days in jail.

But, incredibly, just one week before he pleaded guilty, cops allegedly caught Russell driving a car with a whopping 26 severed catalytic converters in the back seat. And he is only charged with one count of misdemeanor theft in the case.

Police pulled Russell over in the North Lawndale neighborhood around 3 a.m. on December 30 for running a stop sign, according to a CPD report. He pulled over and started walking away with his two passengers. Cops say they found him hiding in a back yard.

While securing Russell’s SUV, an officer peered through the back window and saw a stack of 26 sawn-off catalytic converters staring back at them.

According to CPD inventory records, 21 parts came from Toyota Prius vehicles.

Despite the considerable cache of car parts, Russell is only charged with one misdemeanor count of theft of lost or mislaid property. Well, that’s not entirely true. He is also charged with misdemeanor driving on a revoked or suspended license.

CPD records show he was released from the police station on his own recognizance less than nine hours after police arrested him.

So far, the Illinois Department of Corrections has not moved to revoke his parole, even though he is currently on parole for driving on a revoked or suspended license with four or more prior convictions, according to state records.

He has been sentenced to prison six other times: for narcotics in 2018; for resisting police causing injury in 2011; for being a felon in possession of a firearm with a prior conviction in 2011; for aggravated DUI on a suspended or revoked license in 2010; and twice for narcotics in 2005, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.

Russell is due back in court on February 17.

Catalytic converter thieves, the scourge of car owners across Chicago, have been a problem for years. That’s because the thieves can pocket $100 to $200 for each device on the black market or at unscrupulous scrapyards. The converters, which reduce harmful emissions, are especially valuable because they contain small amounts of expensive metals.

And reports indicate the crime is becoming more popular and more lucrative thanks to skyrocketing precious metal prices. The price of one of those metals, palladium, is currently selling for nearly $1,900 per ounce. A few years ago, it was trading for $500. Another metal inside the devices, rhodium, is even more expensive: $12,100 per ounce currently, up from less than $2,000 per ounce five years ago

An automotive website reported last year that Toyota Prius is “particularly attractive” to thieves because the cars run cleaner than most vehicles, so the precious metals in their converters are less depleted than standard cars. Pick-up trucks and SUVs have long been popular targets because they are easier for thieves to crawl under.

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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