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The trend continues: Over two dozen catalytic converters stolen from East Hartford school buses

Thefts Of Catalytic Converters Sky Rocket Across The Nation
Justin Sullivan
Getty Images
A brand-new catalytic converter sits on the floor at Johnny Franklin's Muffler on July 11, 2022, in San Rafael, California. Thefts of catalytic converters are surging across the nation as thieves seek out precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium that fill the inside of the antipollution car part. Thefts have nearly tripled since the pandemic began, with over 50,000 in 2021 compared to under 20,000 in 2020. Vehicle owners are having to pay thousands of dollars to replace the stolen parts and in some cases can't get them due to supply chain issues.

Connecticut is experiencing a continuation of catalytic converter theft, with more being taken from vehicles in parking lots. Thieves are stealing the converters for their precious metals and selling them either online or on the black market. Replacing a catalytic converter can cost between $2,500 and $4,000.

Recently, over two dozen catalytic converters were stolen from school buses parked in a lot in East Hartford. These buses served Capital Region Education Council (CREC) schools.

While the bus operators were able to find coverage for the affected vehicles, CREC representatives say other districts and schools have experienced delays and cancellations due to these thefts.

East Hartford Police stated that no arrests have been made. Detectives are going through video surveillance and other evidence.

Jean Cronin, executive director of the Connecticut School Transportation Association (COSTA), says this theft “trend” started during the pandemic and is getting worse.

“But what we’re finding is that they’re not necessarily bringing them to scrap dealers in Connecticut,” Cronin said. “They’re usually very sophisticated rings of thieves that are working and bringing these converters out of state. Oftentimes we’re finding out from law enforcement that they’re bringing these converters into New York and then are getting shipped out in container ships to other countries.

“So it’s very sophisticated, and the frustration is catching them. Most of the yards have fences, they have cameras, but unless the police are there and you actually catch the person in the act of stealing it, there’s not much you can do,” Cronin said.

Sergeant Christine Jeltema with the Connecticut State Police says that while East Hartford is not a part of the department’s jurisdiction, this kind of theft often has many contributing factors.

“What we tell people is to have your vehicle in a well-lit area, if it’s at home or in a parking lot, so that could be a deterrent,” Jeltema said. “If it is a fleet of vehicles, there’s a way to secure them, if there’s fencing around the fleet and secure that, that’s also a deterrent as well. If anybody sees something suspicious, always call 911. We really rely heavily on the communities and the public to be our eyes and ears out there. Anything suspicious or if they see something ... call 911 immediately and try to get a description as best as possible.”

Police rely on these tips to help them identify who’s working on a vehicle legitimately or who may be in the process of stealing parts.

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