Southwest suburban police warn of catalytic converter thefts; 1 suspect arrested

Oxygen sensor and catalytic converter
Oxygen sensor and catalytic converter Photo credit Getty Images Stock

PALOS PARK, Ill. (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Orland Park police arrested a catalytic converter thief suspect early Thursday, all the while another southwest suburban police department is warning about a rash of catalytic converter thefts.

Palos Park police said that on Wednesday night there were a number of catalytic converters sawed off vehicles around 131st and LaGrange Road and elsewhere in the southwest suburbs. Police said the thieves were two men in a Dodge Durango.

Hours later, Orland Park police captured a catalytic converter theft suspect. Police said an off-site security company had spotted the suspect driving into Bettenhausen Dodge with his lights off shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday.

Police said 29-year-old Tyree Johnston, of Chicago, fled the scene, and after about a mile long chase, was captured trying to climb a shed in someone’s yard in the 9300 block of West 167th Street.

Orland Park police said they found five catalytic converters, a reciprocating saw, cannabis packaged for sale, and $2,000 cash in Johnston’s car.

Additionally, police said a Dodge van in the auto dealership was missing a catalytic converter and that it was taken by Johnston.

Tyree D. Johnston was charged with several offenses, including possession of stolen motor vehicle parts, unlawful possession of cannabis and reckless driving, police said.

He appeared in court Thursday and was issued a $50,000 Deposit Bond, police said. His next court appearance is Feb. 15.

Meanwhile, Palos Park police are offering suggestions to try to minimize the chance your vehicle’s catalytic converter will be stolen, including parking in well-lit areas; parking close to building entrances or nearest road in public parking lots to leave car where people can see it; parking in a personal garage, if you can, with the door shut; installing a catalytic converter-specific security device or have it welded to the car frame; or engraving your car’s VIN number to the catalytic converter.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals, such as platinum and rhodium. Police said the converters are attractive to thieves, who cut out the parts from under the vehicle, because they can sell them on the black market to auto body shops or scrap yards, where they are melted down so the rare metals can be extracted.