CHICAGO (CBS) -- Anyone who didn't know what a catalytic converter was a few years ago probably does now. For years, CBS 2 has been covering the steep rise in thieves stealing these vulnerable parts from underneath cars across Chicago.
Now CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey is asking how often the thieves actually get caught.
Despite years of city leaders and lawmakers trying to fix this problem, according to records obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators, the answer is almost never.
Fulton-Desplaines Garage's Matt Tefka says they average two to three stolen catalytic converter cases a week.
"They kind of come in droves," he said. "The ones that are more accessible those are the ones that are getting robbed."
According to data obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators via the Freedom of Information Act, reports for stolen catalytic converters hit a recent high in August of 2022 with 900 stolen that month.
They dropped over the winter but ticked up again this summer. A total of 577 were stolen this August.
But what caught the CBS 2 Investigators' attention was the number of arrests -- all in the single digits. This August there were just three arrests. In July when 684 catalytic converters were stolen, there were also just three arrests.
"There's really not much they can do about what happens in the night, in the dark," said crime policy and policing expert Wesley Skogan.
He says that is because the crime is quick and easy and thieves can usually avoid witnesses. And he says the interest is likely tied to the cost of the precious metals like palladium, which hit $1,100 an ounce in May.
"Converter theft is a classic example of a market driven crime," he siad.
In June, an Illinois law that bans cash sales for catalytic converters over $99 and requires metal dealers to keep electronic records of transactions involving the car parts went into effect.
But it doesn't appear to have made a dent in the numbers since then. Skogan says that is because metal dealers shouldn't be the focus.
The last time less than 100 catalytic converters were stolen in a single month was February 2021.
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