Law enforcement agencies in St. Joseph County are fed up with the number of catalytic converter thefts they have been seeing in the last two months.
In a press conference on Wednesday, South Bend police chief Scott Ruszkowski said that the number of catalytic converters that they have been called about being stolen has gotten out of control.
“To say there has been a rash is an understatement,” he said. “We’ve had over 170 in the county this year alone, county combined.”
Thieves are hitting car dealerships or parked cars on the street at night. They go underneath people’s cars and simply cut out the catalytic converter and then likely take it to someone who will buy the precious metals inside, which usually include platinum and palladium.
“We believe there are multiple groups of individuals out there who are participating in this activity,” said St. Joseph County sheriff William Redman.
Though police officers and sheriff’s deputies are trying their best to find the perps responsible for the 800-percent increase in catalytic converter thefts, St. Joseph County prosecutor Ken Cotter is appealing to state lawmakers to make the penalty for stealing a catalytic converter more severe.
“This is not something that is just a blip. It is a huge impact,” said Cotter, who wants to not only punish thieves but the people who are buying catalytic converters from said thieves by making all of the aforementioned activities a felony.
“The (proposed) changed in the law are not really focused on the individuals doing the stealing,” Cotter said. “The big change is the focus on the folks who are taking advantage of the stealing because they are buying it on the cheap and then they are making a lot of money because of that.”
Right now, stealing a catalytic converter is a misdemeanor. Cotter said making it a felony will hopefully squeeze both those potential thieves and buyers to think twice before carrying out a theft.
Cotter is working with state lawmakers, like State Senator Mike Bohacek, who represents LaPorte, St. Joseph, and Starke Counties, to amend state statute to do just that.