Bob Noble's repair shop replaced a catalytic converter last week for a woman who had the vital part stolen from her car while she was working at Target.
Noble, who owns Midas of Sycamore, charged her about $250, but replacement costs can range from $150 to $1,000, depending on the vehicle involved and how much damage the thieves cause the exhaust system in cutting the part away.
"You really don't see it too much in DeKalb County," Noble said. "You see it more in Chicago, especially around the airports. But Chicago's coming this way."
Area police released a CrimeStoppers bulletin Wednesday reporting that nine catalytic converters were stolen from locations in DeKalb and Sycamore Oct. 17. Thieves often slide under the car and used a battery-operated saw to cut out the catalytic converter, which they might sell online or as scrap metal.
Catalytic converters, required in all vehicles made in the United States since 1975, use precious metals to convert toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, into less harmful gases. If one is stolen from a vehicle, it's likely safe to drive the car to a repair shop – so long as the exhaust system isn't dragging on the ground – but the vehicle will be noticeably loud and shouldn't be driven long distances, Noble said.
Stealing a catalytic converter can take less than 5 minutes, and the parts can be hard to identify once they are gone, DeKalb County Sheriff Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said. Listings for used catalytic converters are prevalent on sites such as eBay.
"They might have a part number on them; but once they are stolen from a car, they're not very traceable," Dumdie said.
He urged DeKalb County residents to call police if they see unusual activity in local parking lots.
"If they see someone lying underneath a vehicle, call it in," Dumdie said.
Can you help?
Anyone with information about the thefts should contact DeKalb County Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward up to $1,000 and reports can be made anonymously.