One of the photos of a “vehicle of interest” in the Pattys burglary. “It has very distinctive wheels and a triangle marking on the rear gate,” Sgt. Scott Denham said.

Several vehicles in Creswell were targeted last weekend for their catalytic converters, according to Sgt. Scott Denham of the Lane County Sheriff’s Office. The stolen devices, which control toxic emissions from vehicles, are popular with thieves looking to make anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars.

“This is happening all over the I-5 corridor, especially in Eugene,” Denham said.

Springfield Police have seen an uptick, but nothing as dramatic as Eugene. SPD has had seven cases reported since February 2021, said Tiffany Monroe, spokesperson for the department.

There has been a noticeable spike in catalytic converter thefts since December 2020. According to Car & Driver Magazine, the National Insurance Crime Bureau stopped tracking converter thefts after 2015. In that year, the NICB wrote that nearly 4,000 catalytic converters were reported stolen nationwide and that the real number was “much higher.”

Another driving factor: Two of the three rare-earth metals used in catalytic converters are worth more per ounce than gold. Palladium prices are more than $2,800 (gold is about $1,780). Rhodium, which started 2020 around $6,000, has blasted past $28,000. Platinum has been more steady, and was around $1,200 recently.

Sawzall – a reciprocating saw that can cost anywhere from $200-$400 – seems to be the tool of choice, Denham said. “We are still looking into why there has been such an uptick in them and where they might be going to sell them.”

He said residents can always help by reporting suspicious activity late at night around local businesses. “Even if no one is on duty, usually a main office car will roll this way if not tied up.”

Oregon state senators on Wednesday, April 21, passed SB803 – a measure that would prohibit scrap metal businesses from buying the converters except from a commercial seller, among other requirements. The House is now considering the bill.

Pattys, 117 E. Oregon Ave., was burglarized over the weekend, too, when thieves broke out its front-door glass around 3:30 a.m. and stole more than $4,000 in tobacco products. The sergeant posted a “vehicle of interest” on his Facebook Page.

Both the catalytic converter thefts at Point S, 25 S. Mill St., and Pattys, occurred overnight when no sheriff’s deputies were on duty. 

The City contracts with LCSO for 20 hours per day, leaving a four-hour gap. Denham said he’s noticed an uptick in incidents during the non-coverage hours “as most local people involved in criminal behavior know when deputies are on and off, and the weather is getting better.” 

He said the shift times for deputies were chosen around the “time gap” with the lowest activity.

“Creswell deputies do sometimes voluntarily adjust their hours to try and catch those gap-hour behaviors, but we cannot contractually mandate schedule changes to deputies unless it is a permanent shift in schedule.”

Wrong-way driver arrest: SPD arrested Jesse David Jaffe, 24, of Springfield on Saturday, April 24. He has been charged with DUII, reckless endangering (x5), reckless driving and hit and run. Police say that at 1:52 a.m. a K9 Officer was monitoring traffic on Highway 126 eastbound near I-5 when a one-ton Dodge truck went by him the wrong way at high speed. The officer began trying to parallel the truck which reached speeds of 100 mph. The truck went up the onramp to Mohawk Blvd. and turned north, then quickly eastbound on Marcola Rd. Ultimately, the stop transitioned to a DUII investigation, and he was arrested. During the pursuit, dispatchers began receiving a flood of 911 calls from motorists who were almost struck head-on by Jaffe. One of the callers described taking evasive action and steering away from Jaffe. Had this driver not reacted as quickly as she did, the impact would have been fatal, police said.