Eau Claire dealership deals with catalytic converter thefts

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 5:37 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Ken Vance Automotive is one of the latest targets of catalytic converter thieves.

They struck two cars in the Ken Vance Hyundai dealership parking lot on July 19 around 10:30 p.m. The cars were being serviced.

Unlike other catalytic converter thefts, the dealership did catch them on security camera tape.

“Thieves arrived, pulled into the lot and managed to hook their vehicles up to them and take tools in and saws out and removed a couple of catalytic converters,” said one of the dealership’s partners, Bill Bertrand.

He said these thefts don’t often happen.

“It’s really rare,” Bertrand said. “I mean, over the years, we go through instances of different things and they’re more sporadic than what we’re really seeing now. So, in the past, we’ve had things like wheels and tires that have been taken out on weekends or something like that.”

He said another Ken Vance dealership was also recently targeted. Before that, he could count one hand how many times it happened in the past decade.

In recent months, catalytic converter thefts have been rising across western Wisconsin.

People steal them for their valuable metals. They’re also hard to track because they don’t have serial numbers.

Eau Claire Police Officer Riley McLennan said there are still ways people can protect themselves from catalytic converter thieves.

“If you have to park on the roadway, try to park in a well-lit area,” she said. “Obviously, if you see something suspicious, be sure to report it to the police.”

She said people can also paint their catalytic converters to deter thieves. People should also watch for someone working on a car in an odd location.

For Bertrand, however, his focus is now on making his customers whole.

“At the end of the day, you know, that’s the situation that we’re kind of put in. So it becomes an extra cost of doing business when it’s already tough in a car business,” he said. “You know, your inventory’s tight, things are different, so it’s just an added element that, you know, kind of stinks to deal with.”

Bertrand added his staff is working with customers and insurance to get catalytic converters replaced.

He said staff have also moved some of their inventory as well as customer cars to more conspicuous locations on their lot.

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