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Tulsa police investigating over 100 catalytic converter thefts; HOPE Tulsa's new outreach van out of commission after theft

Tulsa police investigating over 100 catalytic converter thefts; HOPE Tulsa's new outreach van out of commission after theft

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The rise of catalytic converter thefts is no secret.

A quick scroll through Facebook can reveal post after post of people reporting theirs stolen and police departments asking for help in their investigations.

With the thefts skyrocketing in recent months — more than 100 cases of stolen converters have been reported recently just in the Tulsa Police Department’s Riverside Division — even area nonprofits are becoming victims.

Health Outreach Prevention Education Tulsa, an organization dedicated to providing HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing, outreach, education and prevention across the Tulsa area, bought a new, bigger, outreach van July 19 to increase its outreach work and improve social distancing.

The catalytic converter was stolen out of the new van less than a week later.

One of the van’s uses is to facilitate testing for people in rural areas who otherwise might not be able to get it because of insurance reasons or local stigmas.

“That’s the biggest impact, because we can’t go to rural Oklahoma until it gets fixed,” HOPE Executive Director Taryn Norman said.

The estimate for repairing the van and increasing security to prevent future thefts is about $7,300, Norman said. The converter was ripped from the van so violently that other parts of the van were damaged.

HOPE Tulsa started a fundraiser on Facebook to help with those costs, and Norman said she is thankful for the amount of community support the agency has received.

Norman said the theft was recorded on a neighboring business’ security cameras, and she said she was surprised that someone would steal from a van that had a camera pointed at it.

“It takes mere minutes for a practiced thief to steal the converters,” Tulsa Police Lt. Josh Showman said. “Having control of where your vehicle is helps deter thefts.”

The easiest way for people to prevent thefts is to keep their vehicles in a garage or behind a locked gate, Showman said.

The Police Department’s Riverside Division, where Showman works, covers midtown Tulsa, west Tulsa and parts of south Tulsa. It has seen over 100 cases of stolen converters, in some cases from repeat victims, in its area recently.

Catalytic converters on their own are worthless when they are taken out of cars, but the metals inside the devices are worth a lot to companies that recycle them.

Showman said police are investigating both the people who steal and sell the converters as well as those who buy the stolen converters, because buyers have to have permits to trade in the precious metals.

A legislative solution is needed to require companies to stamp converters with identification numbers so they can be tracked easily, and more regulation is needed in the trade of the metals, Showman said.

In the meantime, though, car owners can have professionals weld their own identification numbers onto their converters or have protections built into the vehicles to prevent future thefts.

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