More school buses hit by catalytic converter thefts

Catalytic converter thefts are up 400% in 3 years, according to State Farm. What can fleets -- and you -- do?
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 9:15 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 31, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Menasha police are investigating the theft of catalytic converters from school buses at Lamers headquarters over the weekend.

Police tell Action 2 News five catalytic converters were stolen. The investigation is ongoing, and no information was released about a possible suspect or suspects.

A Menasha police officer says thieves didn’t have to do much work to get to Lamers buses.

”The entire facility is not fenced in. The entire bus lot’s not, and it’s not feasible for some of these companies to pay for a camera system that has 10 to 15 cameras to cover the whole bus lot,” Officer Dan Hoernke said.

Menasha police say a catalytic converter was also stolen from a box truck at Watters Plumbing.

According to a State Farm Insurance study released a month ago, catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed 400% since 2019. It’s been a growing crime in Northeast Wisconsin, too.

This is the third such catalytic converter theft in the area that we’ve reported on in the last six months. In September, Kobussen was hit by catalytic converter thieves in Oshkosh. The school district had to cancel bussing one day after Kobussen’s entire fleet was targeted.

“I think it did affect their bus lines, which is going to be problematic because most parents work, both parents work, the kids need to get to school. So, I think taking some preventative measures for some of these bus companies, businesses with larger vehicles would be a good idea,” Officer Hoernke said.

Back in April, ASPIRO in Green Bay had six of them taken from their bus fleet. A local company partnered with ASPIRO to develop a device to frustrate thieves.

For thieves, stealing catalytic converters can be lucrative. One can bring between $50 and $500 at a scrap yard for the rare metals that are inside of one.

But the thefts are costly for companies. It costs as much as $1,500 to replace just one of them.

Hoernke said most catalytic converters don’t have serial numbers, so tracking them is extremely difficult.

“That’s why we’re suggesting with a temperature gauge paint that you identify that it’s you and your companies’ catalytic converter in a way like that,” Hoernke said.

State Farm’s study said parking in a garage can help deter thieves the most, but parking in well-lit areas is also good.

The Sheboygan Police Department offered its own tips, including spraypainting the exhaust system with a bright color as a visible deterrent, or etching your license plate number into the converter so it can be traced back to you.

It also suggested installing a “cat shield” or “cat lock,” which is an aluminum or stainless steel cage around the catalytic converter that’s bolted to the vehicle. Because of the cost, police recommended checking with your auto insurance to see if they’d cover it.

Finally, police say, if you see something -- or hear something -- say something. Call police if you see any suspicious activity or persons, if you hear metal sawing or other unusual sounds at night, or if you see someone looking or crawling under a vehicle. Let law enforcement officers check it out.