Earlier this week, two men were indicted on charges of theft, vandalism and breaking and entering related to the theft of catalytic converters from around the county.
Sheriff William Niemi said quite a few catalytic converter thefts have been reported in the county.
“It seems to be going on the rise all over, not just in Ashtabula County,” Niemi said.
The Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department is on patrol and keeping their eyes out, Niemi said.
“Our guys are being aggressive and actively looking for anybody that could be actively involved,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Department works with junk yards to make sure they’re informed when people come in to sell a large number of catalytic converters.
“It’s unfortunate, because they’re creating victims,” Niemi said. “It’s not a victimless crime.”
Niemi encouraged the public to reach out to law enforcement if they see or hear suspicious activity.
“Do not hesitate to call us, because the public is our eyes,” Niemi said. “We rely heavily on the public to give us information so we can help protect them.”
Heather Helms, an administrator at one of Creative Learning Workshop’s Geneva locations, said thieves had stolen catalytic converters from three of the location’s four vehicles.
“It’s really been a challenge to get our clients to workshop,” Helms said. CLW works with people with developmental disabilities.
Helms praised Truckmen, who did the repairs on CLW’s vehicles.
Melissa Jewell, parts manager and service writer with Truckmen, said the business is seeing a ton of catalytic converter theft.
“It’s an epidemic, it’s crazy,” she said.
Catalytic converters are being targeted because they contain precious metals, she said.
“The sad thing is that by stealing the converters out of these vehicles, it pushes the prices up on the catalytic converter purchase from a dealer because now there’s a shortage,” Jewell said.
Depending on the amount of the damage, entire exhaust systems sometimes have to be replaced, Jewell said
Converters are significantly backordered, she said. Truckmen has created a theft deterrent system, Jewell said.
“Hopefully it won’t happen to [our customers] again,” she said.