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Lenexa police program targets costly catalytic converter thefts

Updated: 2014-02-15T06:07:26Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

It is a costly and persistent crime.

Within minutes, an accomplished thief can slip under a vehicle, cut off the catalytic converter and be on his or her way to a scrap yard for a nice payday.

To combat the problem, Lenexa police on Friday announced a new program that they hope will deter thefts and make perpetrators easier to prosecute when caught.

The anti-theft program involves etching a vehicle’s identifying information into the metal of the converter and then sealing it with an overlay of heat-resistant paint.

“We think it will be a deterrent to theft in the first place,” said Lenexa police spokesman Dan Friesen. “We also think it will deter scrappers from wanting to accept them if they are stolen.”

Friesen said without that kind of marking, even if police catch a person who possesses a converter, they don’t know where it came from or if it was stolen.

“It’s been frustrating,” he said.

Last year, Lenexa police handled 45 such reported thefts, and so far in 2014, they have received 18 catalytic converter theft cases. Depending on the make and model of vehicle, thieves can get $40 to $100 for each unit they sell for scrap. But the replacement cost for victims is significantly higher.

Friesen said many of the city’s victims have been businesses that had trucks hit overnight while the businesses were closed.

Several of those businesses are partnering with the department to provide labor and materials at no charge to people wishing to have their converters marked.

The technique was demonstrated Friday afternoon at William’s Automotive of Lenexa, one of the participating businesses. William’s and Charlie’s Brake and Muffler, also of Lenexa, will do the work for free for customers even if they are not having any other work done, he said. Another Lenexa business, Shore Tire, will do the converter work free of charge for customers having other work done.

Other businesses involved include Anthony Plumbing, Heating and Cooling; Westlake Ace Hardware; AT&T; and O’Reilly Auto Parts.

“We’ve gotten a great response from businesses,” Friesen said.

He said a Lenexa police detective suggested the program after reading about similar efforts in other cities.

One city finding the program successful is Roseville, Calif., which started it at the beginning of 2013.

“We’ve seen a huge drop-off in catalytic converter thefts,” said Dee Dee Gunther, spokeswoman for the Roseville Police Department.

That program also has partnered with area businesses to offer the service on an ongoing basis, Gunther said.

Anyone with questions about the program can call Lenexa police at 913-477-7737 or 913-825-8052.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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