Businesses increase security following uptick in catalytic converter thefts

Police say so far this year, they've already had a record number of investigations for the stolen car part.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Throughout 2020, and already in 2021, Lincoln Police have seen a significant increase in thefts of catalytic converters. Although it’s a crime they’ve dealt with for years, the 500% increase in 2020 was shocking.

Some local businesses have been hit hard by thieves.

“It was around $39,000 of catalytic converters stolen from the dealership,” says Sarah Aljadary, manager of A&B Auto Sales near 33rd and Cornhusker.

In November, 39 cars on the lot were targeted and had catalytic converters stolen.

“It was actually a mess for someone to just come back to work the next morning and see all that happening. um, we weren’t really expecting it,” Aljadary says.

The car part, which reduces pollutants in your exhaust, is targeted by thieves thanks to precious metals like uranium and platinum so they can resell them.

So far this year, police say they have investigated as many cases of the car part thefts than 2015 through 2018 combined.

Car lots tend to be a major target for thieves, but Aljadary and other businesses say they’ve prevented more catalytic converters from being taken thanks to more security measures.

“So far we’re working on getting more lighting around the lot, more security cameras, it a process but we are working on it,” she says. “So far we haven’t had anything stolen really you know anything stolen really as far as catalytic converters.”

The same trend goes for Leach Camper Sales just down the road at 27th and Cornhusker.

Last year, they had around a dozen catalytic converters stolen in one month.

“We hired a third-party security company to patrol the lot throughout the evening and at night, we did that as well as just a bunch more 360 cameras with better digital visibility to catch license plates and things like that,” says sales manager Tyler Seite.

Since then, trespassing and thefts have dramatically decreased, he says.

“We’ve only had I think two stolen since then and they were in the way back of our lot, very hidden and not in clear sight so it’s not been too bad, luckily.”

Both businesses say even though extra security is pricey, it’s worth it.

“If you’re able to put up more security cameras, go ahead. It’s something to protect your business, do whatever it takes to protect your business. You put a lot into business, you really don’t want to lose everything you put out there and start from zero,” Aljadary says. “It’s been really, really bad for us. We are starting basically from zero.”

“We actually did start marking quite a bit of our catalytic converters just so that they could be identified if they were stolen which was a pain but it was worth it in the long run,” Seite says. “But I think between the security and the cameras we did actually catch a few people. It’s helped a ton”

Police say that in most, but not all cases, it appears that commercial vehicles and businesses are targeted.

Customarily, police say power tools are used to remove the converter that is located under the vehicle. To protect your cars, police say to consider where you are parking vehicles overnight especially when left unattended in a commercial lot.

Parking in well-lit, busy areas or close to your home in your driveway can decrease your risk. They also say investing in security cameras can be helpful in catching and deterring thieves.

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