The recent theft of nine catalytic converters cut off trucks and vans in Westlake could be connected to similar thefts around the Westshore earlier this year.

Staff at Welcome House and Youth Challenge reported converters were cut off a total of eight vehicles parked on their Sharon Drive properties in late November. Workers at Lake Erie Electric said Nov. 26 a converter was found cut off a truck parked in the lot on First Street.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals rthat can bring more than $200. They can often cost more than $1,000 to replace. Thieves can cut them off most cars, trucks, vans and SUVs in a few minutes.

“The three recent ones appear to be related and they could be related to the earlier ones as well,” said Westlake Police Capt. Jerry Vogel.

Police departments in Bay Village, Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted. North Ridgeville, Sheffield Village and Westlake have reports of at least 20 converters being stolen at different locations since mid March. Vogel said one theft occurred a few days ago from a production truck for the movie “Cherry” being filmed in Cleveland.

“I don’t think the thieves have left Northeast Ohio,” said Vogel. “They look for good opportunities and go after them.”

Area police agencies continue to talk and work on solving the thefts, Vogel said. And it’s not just a West Side crime problem. At least 11 converters have been stolen off vehicles in Bainbridge Township and Solon.

On Nov. 14, thieves cut through fencing at the Kenston school district’s bus garage and cut the catalytic converters off five school vans. There were three different cases in Solon with five catalytic converters stolen, police said.

But the thefts take a bite out of the service organizations’ budgets because the converters must be replaced.

“We had to cancel or postpone a few events until we got the converters replaced, said Kathy Rigdon of Youth Challenge, which provides sports and events for the developmentally disabled. The organization reported about two weeks ago that five converters were stolen from its service vehicles. The vehicles are not used daily.

“It was disappointing for the people we serve and us when that happened,” Rigdon said. “We’re trying to help people and when something like this happens we can’t do that. The events are important to a lot of people.”

Replacing the converters is not easy for organizations like Welcome House, which had three converters cut from its vehicles, said Executive Director Tony Thomas. Welcome House serves adults in Cuyahoga County with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We’ve got them back on the road, but you’re talking more than $1,000 each to get converters back on them,” Thomas said. “These type of organizations don’t have a lot of money and we rely on our equipment and staff to get things done.”

Rigdon said a Go Fund Me account helped raise the money to replace the converters on her organization’s vehicles.

Thomas said the organizations try to keep a close watch on their equipment and said they are working with police to try to solve the thefts.

Contact this reporter at assoceditor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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