A group of catalytic converter thieves left their jack under a car when Chicago police interrupted their work on the North Side early Thursday. So, what did they do? Apparently, they went to a 24-hour auto parts store to shop for more jacks. They still managed to speed away from the police.
Patrol officers came upon the crew as they prepared to steal a catalytic converter from a vehicle on Jarvis near Clark Street in Rogers Park around 2:25 a.m. The thieves scurried into a black SUV and sped from the scene when they realized cops were approaching.
But they left their jack at the scene. Chicago police used the city’s surveillance camera network to track the car as it left the area.
About 30 minutes later, a 911 caller reported a group of men shopping for car jacks inside an auto parts store on the 2500 block of West Touhy — and they thought it was suspicious. Police arrived at the store just in time to see a black SUV and a silver sedan speed away. Officers did not pursue the vehicles.
That’s not the only close call that catalytic converter thieves had overnight.
Cops in the Town Hall (19th) District responded to a call of a catalytic converter theft in progress around 4:30 a.m. on the 4400 block of North Maplewood in Lincoln Square.
They arrived quickly enough to see at least two men stealing a catalytic converter from a Toyota Prius, according to a CPD report. Once again, the crew jumped into a waiting car. They drove onto the sidewalk to evade officers and sped away from the scene, police reported.
Once again, they left a jack behind.
So far, no arrests have been made in Thursday’s capers.
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 $2,600 per ounce. A few years ago, it was trading for $500. Another metal inside the devices, rhodium, is even more expensive: $19,000 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.