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As police investigate shootout stemming from catalytic converter theft, studies warn of major jump in such thefts

Police investigate shootout that stemmed from catalytic converter theft in North Center
Police investigate shootout that stemmed from catalytic converter theft in North Center 02:00

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A growing crime trend boiled over into a dangerous shootout his week – all starting when thieves tried to steal a catalytic converter.

Police said a man caught the thief in the act, and then gunfire erupted.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the incident happened in broad daylight Thursday in the 2200 block of West Oakdale Avenue at the edge of North Center – close to the North Branch of the Chicago River, the Lathrop Homes development, and Hamlin Park.

It was 4:46 p.m. when a 57-year-old heard loud noises from inside his house on the block – and went out to find someone stealing the catalytic converter from his car.

Police said the thief shot at the man, who in turn shot back. The victim – who has a Firearm Owners Identification Card and a concealed carry license – in turn took out his own gun and fired shots at the thief, police said.

The man whose car was targeted was shot in the abdomen and was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in fair condition.

The thief got into a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle and fled in an unknown direction, police said. Police have not indicated whether he succeeded in stealing the catalytic converter.

Police said he was also shot in the left forearm.

We have been tracking catalytic converter thefts closely at CBS 2.

"It's running rampant right now," said Warren Preis, owner of the European and U.S. Car Service  auto body shop in the Uptown neighborhood. "There's no inventory on the shelves because so many of these things are being stolen."

A study by Carfax indicated that catalytic converter thefts increased about 1,215 percent from 2019 to 2021.

Many catalytic converters are stolen from a specific make and model - the Toyota Prius - according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Why? They say the hybrid converter on a Prius typically has less wear and tear on it, so the metals are more valuable.

This is backed up by information from Farmers Insurance, which indicates that hybrid converters go for hundreds of dollars - while typically, a non-hybrid catalytic converter can be sold for $50 to $250.

Police investigate shootout that stemmed from catalytic converter theft in North Center 02:00

But it is not just the Prius. CarFax has made a list of 10 cars from which catalytic converters are stolen most often nationwide

  1. 1985-2021 Ford F-Series pickup trucks (F-150, F-250, etc.)
  2. 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  3. 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  4. 1990-2022 Ford Econoline vans
  5. 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks
  6. 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  7. 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  8. 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  9. 2011-17 Chrysler 200
  10. 2001-21 Toyota Prius

The Insurance Information Institute provided these tips on preventing catalytic converter thefts:

• Park in well-lit areas close to public entrances;

• Regularly move your car's spot or use a closed garage;

• Install an anti-theft device;

• Install motion-sensitive lights and cameras in your parking area;

• Paint your catalytic converter to deter buyers – some local police departments even offer free programs for painting.

Chicago Police say a 16-year-old is in custody in connection to the shooting and charges were still pending Friday afternoon. He was taken into custody at Humboldt Park Health after self-transporting there with a gunshot wound.

Police refused to address broader questions about catalytic converters and cars targeted.

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