PPB: 438% rise in theft of catalytic converters in Portland
The Portland Police Bureau reports a rash of stolen catalytic converters — with thefts up almost 440% in parts of the city late last year.
Sgt. Kevin Allen says the North Precinct alone averaged 21.5 catalytic converter thefts in November and December, 2019. That's a 438% increase compared with June through October, when police counted just 4 converter thefts on average per month.
Overall, about 130 catalytic converters have been reported stolen between June 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, according to bureau data, and authorities believe many more such crimes are going unreported. Consider one such case:
Michael Alldritt, owner of the Alpine Motors car lot, 6410 N.E. Sandy Blvd., estimates his business has lost $10,000 over the past few months.
"It's been a continuous problem since we've been here, and the previous business that was here had it happen all the time," Alldritt told the Tribune. "It's disheartening that this happens so much in Portland."
Thieves typically nick the converters because they contain trace amounts of valuable metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium, which can be resold to unscrupulous scrap dealers. Converters are part of a car's exhaust system, and are used to reduce pollution.
Around 7:35 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, Alldritt says his security cameras captured two men approaching his lot and stalking among the cars. He called 9-1-1 and rushed to the scene, but says the alleged thieves tripped the security alarm, and fled before he arrived.
The 38-year-old Happy Valley resident decided to wait across the street for the police to arrive — but the apparent thieves returned first. Alldritt says he tried to box in their car, but then tailed them while redialing police.
The duo were subsequently arrested near Northeast 86th Avenue and Prescott Street, according to a news release.
Police say Portland residents Andrew Charles Ooten, 48, and Donald Leroy Newcomb III, 39, were arrested.
"The only thing that really saved us is we've got a really good security system," said Alldritt.
Ooten, who remains behind bars at this time, faces charges of first-degree criminal mischief, and in a previous case of alleged converter theft, another count of first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree attempted assault and unlawful use of weapon.
Newcomb, who has been released from jail, was charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief.
Police officials encourage anyone who hears sawing sounds near a car being worked on to call 9-1-1, especially if it happens late at night.
"We believe many victims do not report the crime thinking that it will not make a difference," according to the release. "At times, if we get the reports, we can better track organized criminal groups, aggregate the charges against the suspects."
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