‘Brazen’ catalytic converter thefts continue in Portland area

Crime

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland metro area continues to see a spike in catalytic converter thefts from vehicles.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it’s looking for two “brazen thieves” who took a catalytic converter in broad daylight.

The theft happened Tuesday. Surveillance video shows a black pickup truck with two people inside park next to a green Ford Excursion in a parking lot in the 14800 block of S. Leland Road in Beavercreek. The driver of the truck gets out, climbs under the Excursion and cuts away its catalytic converter before getting back into the truck and driving away. The theft took just a little more than a minute.

The suspect vehicle is believed to be a 2006 black Ford F-350 Crew Cab with a dealer plate on the back. Deputies said the truck may be stolen. It has a trailer hitch, black studded spoke wheel rims and items in the bed including a small white bucket.

A suspect accused of stealing a catalytic converter off a Ford Excursion in a Beavercreek parking lot, May 18, 2021. (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)
A suspect accused of stealing a catalytic converter off a Ford Excursion in a Beavercreek parking lot, May 18, 2021. (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)
A suspect accused of stealing a catalytic converter off a Ford Excursion in a Beavercreek parking lot, May 18, 2021. (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)

Authorities said the suspect driver is a white man who was wearing a gray sweatshirt, dark baseball cap and a green camouflage mask over his nose and mouth.

Anyone with information about the theft is urged to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 503.723.4949 or online.

Another catalytic converter thief was caught on camera, also in the middle of the day, at a business in Northeast Portland.

Rich Pine owns Evolution Plumbing. Video taken Friday shows a suspect pull into the parking lot shortly after Pine left the shop. While law enforcement officials say catalytic converter thefts typically take place in just minutes, this particular thief wasn’t in a hurry.

“I left the shop at 5:15 and he pulled in at 5:17, so he must’ve been parked nearby to watch me leave,” said Pine. “He just drove in nonchalantly, just, you know, reversed in.”

As the thief pulled away, the employee who owns the car was pulling back in from a long day of work.

“We have one or two scrappers that we let come get metal so he’s like, well, maybe it’s one of our scrappers,” said Pine.

Surveillance video shows a suspect get out of a truck and cut the catalytic converter from the smaller car on the left at Evolution Plumbing in NE Portland, May 14, 2021. (Courtesy of Rich Pine)

Pine said the loss of the catalytic converter has put the car’s owner in a bind. The victim bought the car as a commuter to help launch a new career, all while caring for a baby. Pine said he will cover the cost of replacing his employee’s stolen catalytic converter.

KOIN 6 News spoke with some local muffler shops. One said they’ve seen a three-fold increase in stolen catalytic converter replacements, while another reported making about $50,000 a month by replacing stolen catalytic converters.

The part, which on average sells for $500, is relatively easy to steal because it only takes a couple of minutes, according to Senator Chris Gorsek, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 803 — a measure that seeks to prohibit scrap metal business from purchasing or receiving catalytic converters, except from a commercial seller.

The law would also require scrap metal businesses to record certain information related to catalytic converters purchased or received by scrap metal businesses.

“This issue is critical for residents all across Multnomah County,” Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann said in a statement shared with KOIN 6. “SB803 will interrupt the market, making it harder to sell these stolen goods, and allows police and prosecutors to focus on greater community needs. In many cases, theft like this can impact a family’s only vehicle, making it harder to get to work, school, or child care. This is frustrating and unfair for residents who are working hard every day to make ends meet.”

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