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Thieves steal 7 catalytic converters from Silver Key vehicles in 3 months

The senior services organization says it can take days, and sometimes even weeks, to get the vehicles back in service.
Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 5:44 PM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A nationwide crime trend has hit a local organization.

Silver Key Senior Services said thieves stole seven catalytic converters from shuttle buses and trucks. Five of the thefts happened in October 2020. Two more converters were stolen in January 2021.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Derek Wilson, Silver Key’s chief strategy officer.

Crimes like this are on the rise across the state. According to the Denver Police Department, officers received 108 reports of catalytic converters stolen in January alone. In 2019, only 15 of the emission control devices were reported stolen. In 2020, the number rose to 257.

Officials say thieves go after metal inside the devices, which they sell to scrap yards.

“Unfortunately, there are no regulation on scrap yards to report a load of metal coming in to police. That’s the frustrating part about this whole thing,” DPD Sgt. George Kenny told our sister station KCNC in Denver. “They don’t know they’re stolen because you can’t really track catalytic converter serial numbers. It’s just metal coming into the scrap yards and there’s no regulation to report that to authorities.”

Most drivers will notice their catalytic converter has been stolen because their car will suddenly be a lot noisier. For Silver Key, it puts the shuttle buses out of service.

“We have to get the vehicles towed,” Wilson said. “So with just two vehicles here recently that this occurred with, it’s around 20 to 30 rides a day that we’re not able to do for folks that are needing to get to things like dialysis, other essential medical appointments, the grocery store.”

Repair costs can average up to $1,000. For nonprofits like Silver Key, that takes away from the services it provides.

“All told, these dollars are now being reallocated towards repair costs that are only necessary because somebody decided to do the wrong thing and to steal these converters, and it’s unacceptable,” Wilson said. “As a result, not only are we having to put costs into that, but it hurts those seniors that are in need.”

Silver Key said it usually takes five to seven days to get the buses back, but with the two most recent thefts, it’s taken a lot longer.

“Right now, there’s a backup because the crime continues, so there’s a shortage of parts,” Wilson said. “So we’re waiting on the parts to come in to get the vehicles repaired.”

In the meantime, Silver Key has had to reschedule rides for seniors, which is an inconvenience, especially for those who need buses that are wheelchair accessible.

“We do around 150 to 180 scheduled rides per day,” Wilson said. “So it’s impactful in terms of trying to finagle getting people into an alternate vehicle or just letting them know we can’t give them the ride today.”

For now, two Silver Key buses are sitting at Bud’s Muffler in Colorado Springs, and they’re not the only ones.

“Right now, I have three trucks waiting -- back orders,” said Jeff Goodwin, the owner of Bud’s. “It’s getting harder to find the cats, and it’s the big trucks. The big trucks are where the values are.”

Goodwin said he’s had more than a dozen customers come to get their catalytic converter replaced since the beginning of the year. That’s such an increase compared to what he usually sees that he actually contacted the Colorado Springs Police Department.

“We started asking our customers to report it because it’s important.”

CSPD encourages anyone who’s a victim of a crime to tell them about it. You can call 719-444-7000. If you know anything about who’s behind the recent thefts, you can report it to officers at that same number.

Wilson said Silver Key took several preventative measures following the rash of thefts in October, including improving lighting to deter thieves. But he’s hoping this message will make any other potential thieves think twice before preying on people.

“The people that are thinking about doing this or have done this, shame on you. Don’t do it again,” Wilson said. “This is not a victimless crime. There are people that lives are affected and impacted greatly by them not being able to get their ride that they need.”

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