EPD hosts catalytic converter marking event to deter theft


Illustration by Eliana Storkamp

Amidst a recent rise in catalytic converter thefts, the Evanston Police Department hosted a converter marking event this weekend.

Elena Hubert, Assistant City Editor

To curb the recent rise in catalytic converter thefts, Evanston Police Department got creative this weekend. 

With bright orange spray paint and a stencil, EPD officers marked “EPD” on around 300 Evanston residents’ converters at a Northwestern parking garage Sunday. Catalytic converters are motor parts located on vehicles’ undersides that contain lucrative metals people target for theft and subsequent illegal resale.

Sgt. Chelsea Brown said the painted “EPD” label acts as a visual deterrent for theft, making them difficult to resell.

“The more scrap yards that know about it, the more thieves that know about it, hopefully we’ll be able to deter the crime,” Brown said.

Even with the spray paint as a safeguard, Brown recommended attendees still visit their local mechanic for advice on an anti-theft device to attach to the converter. Some protective measures include metal cages and shields, Brown said.

Evanston resident Patricia Stankovic brought her 2022 Jeep Wrangler to the event, where Sgt. Brown informed her the car’s converter was covered with a wire mesh sleeve. Sgt. Brown said she marked Stankovic’s converter through the sleeve, since the mesh itself hasn’t been proven to be 100% effective at preventing theft. 

“Apparently, you need to do a lot of stuff…you just have to protect yourself as much as you can,” Stankovic said.

EPD spokesperson Officer Enjoli Daley said the event’s goal was to give residents a way to feel empowered against theft.

“The more people that are aware that it happens and are taking an active interest in trying to prevent it for themselves, I think the better,” Daley said.

The underside of a car is shown. A gloved hand fills in an “EPD” stencil with bright orange spray paint on a catalytic converter.
An EPD officer marks a catalytic converter with spray paint to deter people from stealing it. (Elena Hubert/The Daily Northwestern)

Sunday’s event was limited to vehicles manufactured by Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, Jeep and Kia, Daley said, because EPD analysts found these cars had their catalytic converters stolen most often in Evanston. 

Aviv Zafrir, the shop operator of Factory Muffler & Complete Auto Repair in Skokie, told the Daily last month these manufacturers include a higher concentration of the precious metals rhodium, palladium and platinum in their converters.

Evanston resident Sharon Jin brought her Toyota Prius to the event after a friend’s catalytic converter was recently stolen. Jin said she attended the event after hearing about repair costs for catalytic converter thefts. For her friend, it cost about $500, she said.  

Jin said she is “very grateful” that EPD is taking an active interest in deterring the thefts.

“For civil matters, for small things, [officers] have been always there for people,” Jin said.

Officers got each car in and out of the event in less than a minute. EPD officer Mike Jones said climbing under each car to spray its converter was a “workout.” 

Jones said he enjoyed the relationship-building aspect of the event and was able to reconnect with residents he hasn’t seen in a while. It is important for police officers to interact with residents outside of active policing, according to Jones.

“They see us in a different light when we work in this capacity,” Jones said.

EPD hosted an identical converter marking event last November, where officers marked 200 cars.

 Brown said Sunday’s event was prompted by resident demand, as the last one proved effective based on feedback from attendees.

“None of the vehicles that we marked had their converters stolen in that time period,” Brown said.

Daley said she anticipates there will be another event in the future.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @elenahubert25

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