In response to numerous thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles, Skokie police will give away alarms that act as a deterrent to this type of crime.
Signup for the giveaway goes through Oct. 1, with the giveaway slated for Oct. 16 at the Skokie Police Department, 7300 Niles Center Road. As many as 100 will be given away.
People who are selected will be notified by email about the time on Oct. 16 that they can pick up the alarms. In the event there are more requests for alarms than alarms available, the giveaways will be prioritized to people with the most-targeted makes and models of cars, as well as for residents who must park their cars in lots, in the driveway or on the street, said Sgt. John Oakley, the support services sergeant for the Skokie Police Department.
Installation will not be available on-site, but recipients can have that work done at automotive shops, police said. Residents who sign up are not guaranteed to receive an alarm, according to the Skokie Police Dept. Facebook page.
The alarms will need to be attached to the muffler next to the catalytic converter. Once an alarm is installed, the car turned off and the alarm activated, it will send out an audible sound, Oakley said.
“The alarm is loud, like a car alarm, and when it goes off, it will deter thieves from taking it. They will leave the area and not commit the theft,” Oakley said.
A catalytic converter is a device — about the size of a bread box- that attaches to the muffler and is a key component to reducing the carbon emissions that cause air pollution. It takes about a minute or less for thieves to get underneath a car and, using a saw or other means, to remove a catalytic converter, Oakley said.
They are essential for the drivability of a car and some devices are easier to get to than others because some cars are higher off the ground than others, making the cars easier to get under. Some cars are easy targets, too, because they are left overnight in driveways or parked in lots, Oakley said. Once a converter is stolen, the car cannot be driven until it is replaced, Oakley said.
The most commonly targeted vehicles are the Chevrolet Express, Ford Econoline, Ford F250, Honda Accord, Honda CRV, Honda Element, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Mitsubishi Lancer, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota Prius and Toyota Tundra, according to the department.
Catalytic converter thefts have always been an issue, and Skokie and other departments are seeing them more and more, Oakley said, adding there have been 30 in August and September alone.
“Sometimes we might get one, other times we might get five or six and then nothing for a week,” he said.
Oakley said thieves can earn quick cash by selling catalytic converters to scrap metal dealers because the converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. A thief can steal a few and get thousands of dollars, Oakley said.
With a state law that went into effect in June, however, it will be easier for scrap metal dealers to look out for thieves. The new law requires recyclable metal dealers to keep a record of catalytic converters they purchase and requires the seller to provide a driver’s license or ID. To see if a catalytic converter may have been stolen, dealers need to look for any unusual marks like cuts on the device when it is brought in and keep records of who has brought in the devices, Oakley said.
The program is sponsored by the Skokie Police Department, Farmers Insurance and North Shore Community Bank. For more information and to sign up, go to the Skokie.org website and type “catalytic converter” into the search bar.