Jarring video shows armed men protecting catalytic converter theft operation on North Side

Newly-acquired surveillance video shows a heavily-armed and remarkably polished catalytic converter theft crew working a Chicago residential street this month. The footage shows that the thefts, often dismissed as “property crimes,” are serious business for the people who carry them out.

At least two people have been shot while interrupting catalytic converter thefts in progress on the North Side since late July.

“I’d like for everyone to be aware that these people are armed and will fire shots straight at front doors that open or individuals that they feel pose a threat to their operation,” said the resident who agreed to share the video with CWBChicago.

In the video, a white car pulls up to an SUV, and the carefully choreographed theft begins. One man slides out of the back passenger seat and immediately gets to work as three other men step out of each of the other doors and post watch, keeping their eyes peeled in all directions for witnesses, cops, or other problems.

Two of the lookouts are clearly seen with firearms in their hands. The entire operation took less than a minute from start to finish. Watch:

Meanwhile, there are indications that catalytic converter thieves may be part of a nationwide network that ships stolen car parts cross-country, defeating local efforts to interrupt the sale of the devices.

Cops in Washington County, Oregon, this month said they broke up a $22 million operation that trafficked 44,000 catalytic converters from the Pacific Northwest to recyclers on the East Coast.

Prosecutors there charged 15 men in a conspiracy that allegedly stretched across six states.

Just four days before the footage was recorded, a catalytic converter team shot a 54-year-old man who intervened in a theft in the 7200 block of North Oakley, according to Chicago police.

On July 28, a 57-year-old concealed carry holder was shot when he intervened in a catalytic converter theft on the 2200 block of West Oakdale in North Center. Police said the man returned fire, and witnesses saw one of the thieves hop into a getaway car while clutching his arm as if he had been shot.

Chicago police later confirmed that officers were pursuing charges against a 16-year-old boy who showed up at Humboldt Park Health with a gunshot wound to his arm after the shooting. But a CPD spokesperson told CWBChicago that the teen was eventually released without being charged.

The July 28 altercation is similar to a shootout that occurred less than a half-mile away late on November 11, 2021.

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In that case, a 44-year-old man was sitting on the steps of his home when he heard a loud noise coming from the street in the 2900 block of North Wolcott, police said. He investigated the noise and discovered two men under a vehicle.

The two men both drew guns and began shooting at him without warning, police said. The victim, a concealed carry holder, pulled out his gun and returned fire, striking one of the men in the neck, according to police. The victim was not injured.

According to authorities, the thief, 25-year-old Darion Blackman, collapsed on a nearby sidewalk with a gun under his arm and died a short time later. Two of his accomplices escaped. At the time, Blackman was out on bail for felony gun charges.

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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