Police issue warning on catalytic converter theft


by BRIAN NADIG

The 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District commander James O’Donnell said that warmer weather is likely to lead to an increase in thefts of catalytic converters.

O’Donnell said that the thefts take about 2 1/2 minutes.

"It almost always occurs when you’re asleep," O’Donnell said at the March 18 meeting of the 16th District Advisory Committee. "If you hear sounds in the middle of the night, someone sawing things, get out and take a look. If you see something, call 911."

Residents may want to consider purchasing a locking clamp that is designed to deter catalytic converter thefts, O’Donnell said. Called a cat clamp, the device, which costs approximately $160, makes it difficult to saw off the converter because a braided metal cable covers it.

Also at the meeting, O’Donnell said that the district plans to meet with representatives of area banks to discuss a scam in which elderly people are asked to withdraw money to bail a younger relative out of jail. He said that about 10 incidents have been reported in the district this year and that social media and search engines on the Internet have made it easier for thieves to find out the names of their victims’ children or grandchildren.

In a recent incident, a woman gave a man pretending to be a police officer $15,000 in cash from her home and then gave him another $5,000 after she made a withdrawal from her bank, O’Donnell said. The thief made initial contact with the woman over the telephone and then met her at a gas station that is a block from her house.

Requests for bail money should never come from a law enforcement official, as people who are arrested are allowed to call someone for assistance, O’Donnell said. The district will be asking the bank representatives to report suspicious behavior of customers who make an unusually large cash withdrawal, he said.

It also was reported at the meeting that a 22-year-old man threw a gun in a snow bank while officers were pursing him at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19. The officers wanted to question the man after they saw him looking into yards and garages in the 6200 block of West Patterson Avenue, but he fled as the officers approached, police said.

The officers apprehended the suspect a short time later and recovered a loaded handgun, police said. The suspect was identified by police as Pedro A. Colon, of the 2600 block of West Wabansia Avenue.

It also was reported that two girls, age 16 and 17, were arrested after an off-duty police officer saw them checking for unlocked parked cars. About five vehicles were burglarized, and stolen items were recovered from the backpack of one of the suspects, O’Donnell said.
"None of these kids was arrested before," O’Donnell said. "They’re just going down the street, looking for opportunity."

The committee also discussed a recent series of break-ins to United Parcel Service drop-off boxes. In February police arrested a 30-year-old man, who was identified by police as Alexander Kurchiy, of the 5400 block of West Windsor Avenue, after officers saw him enter a code on a box in the 4700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue and open it, according to police.

The committee presented its Officer of the Month Award to Terry Abbate and Karl Hervai for rescuing an elderly woman from a burning building in the 5600 block of West Irving Park Road on Sunday, Jan. 26.


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