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Amid 'rampant' catalytic converter thefts in Chicago, parts shortage also frustrate victims

Chicago residents deal with catalytic converter thefts, and delays from shortages to replace them
Chicago residents deal with catalytic converter thefts, and delays from shortages to replace them 02:38

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago has seen a string of catalytic converter thefts.

They've been stolen at all hours of the night around the city and replacing them is becoming more and more difficult.

Drivers and auto shops are struggling to make repairs. CBS 2's Tara Molina spoke to a woman who's had to go weeks without her car and she's not alone.

With parts hard to come by, those dealing with the growing theft are up against waits for the part and an appointment with a body shop that can help are also overwhelmed.

"They were able to cut it here and cut it at the manifold … it's gone," said Warren Preis, owner of the European and U.S. Car Service  auto body shop in the Uptown neighborhood.

Cut, stolen and sold on the black market for internal precious metal. With a theft problem growing, there are more and more catalytic converter-less care in Chicago and across the state.

Data from State Farm show the insurance company has paid out $3.5 million in Illinois claims this year, $1.5 million since April. They are numbers the company has never seen before. In 2019, catalytic converter claims totaled just $650,000, according to State Farm. In 2020, the figure was $1.1 million, and in 2021, $3.5 million for the whole year.

"There's no inventory on the shelves because so many of these things are being stolen," said Preis.

"It's running rampant right now," he said.

Car repair shops struggle to replace catalytic converters amid rising thefts in Chicago 02:05

So is the shortage of parts.

"Manufactures don't manufacture that for volume of cars needed today," he said.

So with shops like Preis', who is already busy, people dealing with the theft are dealing with weeks-long waits for a repair.

"I know of one car that's waiting for at least four months now for one," said Preis. 

"One auto body said they won't even look at my car for three weeks," said one woman who asked not to be identified.

The woman is in the middle of that waiting game and a very rough couple months.

"It has not been a good summer at all," she said.

Her home was burglarized in May. Her catalytic converter was stolen this month. She's lived on the city's North Side for more than 10 years.

But now she said she questions whether she wants to live in Chicago. She said she has neighbors in the same position and she's had it.

"It doesn't seem like there's any solutions to these problems," she said.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office issued this statement:

"The Cook County State's Attorney's Office Special Prosecutions Bureau has dedicated attorneys who collaborate with our law enforcement partners to monitor and investigate these thefts. When information supports the filing of criminal charges, we do so based on the available evidence and the law."

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) also issued a statement:

"I believe that targeting the profit motive of catalytic converters theft is the best way to address the issue. VIN/Serial numbers on Catalytic Converters and a requirement that proper identification is required for anyone seeking to sell them would be two measures that would be effecting in curtailing the theft. I do think this should be addressed more broadly at the state level to be effective."

Chicago Police did not provide any information on this issue, and Illinois State Police referred questions to Chicago Police. Cook County did not respond to requests for comment.    

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a measure into law in May aimed at preventing catalytic converter theft.

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