Point S video surveillance screengrabThe suspect vehicle at the Point S theft appears to be a dark blue or black Subaru Legacy or Impreza with a silver lower panel. If anyone recognizes this vehicle, contact the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line and ask for a Creswell deputy. PHOTO PROVIDED/LCSO

CRESWELL – A string of catalytic converter thefts has led Lane County Sheriff’s Office to ramp up its patrols, Creswell Sheriff Scott Denham said Tuesday.

Five incidents have occured since April 23, and all except one transpired at business and industrial areas, including at Point S Tire on April 23; an industrial area at 270 S. Mill St. on April 27; Hobby Field Airport, date unknown; and 255 N. Mill St. over the weekend, where industrial shops are located. Police are also investigating its first residential theft of this kind on Monday night at a house on North 1st Street. 

Cars affected have their exhaust system disabled, causing an unmuffled sound and unrestricted emissions. The cost to repair can be several hundred to over $1,000, Denham said. 

It’s not a unique situation right now. In the last three weeks in Eugene, there have been over 50 catalytic converter thefts, Denham said. Janice Cramer, spokesperson for Cottage Grove Police Department, said that four such thefts were reported in April. “The catalytic converters are likely being stolen for the copper they contain. The price of scrap metals has skyrocketed,” she said.

“The internal metals within many catalytic converters are highly valuable to recyclers,” Denham said. “Those that steal them find a recycler and sell the converters to them.” Some catalytic converters can be recycled for anywhere from $60 to over $1,000, depending on the vehicle make and model.

It takes less than five minutes to cut off a catalytic converter, depending on saw blade quality, Denham said. Thefts are generally occurring where there are “multiple cars sitting (in the lot), so they get to hit a bunch of vehicles at once in the dark,” he said, notably between 3 and 5 a.m.

“All of these are happening when deputies are not in town, even at times when they normally would be but are gone to training or some other event,” he said. I believe they must be scouting the area prior to committing the thefts to ensure we are not patrolling around.”

LCSO is ramping up extra patrols, including additional staffing from the LCSO main office. Creswell deputies are also authorized to adjust their schedules to provide additional surprise patrols during the hours of no coverage. 

“Our problem is we’re not getting people calling in any suspicious activity so we’re not catching it until later,” Denham said. “We encourage any citizens that observe suspicious activity, especially in the nighttime hours, to report it to the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line, and if safe to do so, snap a photo.”

Police are also working to resolve two break-ins – one at Patty’s on April 20 and one at Dari-Mart on North Mill Street on May 6. In both instances, the burglars broke glass to steal cigarettes. Patty’s had the door window broken and Dari Mart’s lower window closest to the cashier’s counter was smashed.

Approximately $4,000 worth of cigarettes was stolen from Patty’s. By presstime Tuesday, police had not received an inventory of stolen cigarettes from Dari-Mart.