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Question:

Have the Ripon and Green Lake areas been hit by catalytic converter thefts?

Answer:

Although there have been no reported catalytic converter thefts in the city of Ripon and Fond du Lac County hasn’t had a major problem with catalytic converter thefts, Green Lake County recently has been dealing with the issue.

Ripon Police Chief Bill Wallner told the Commonwealth that the Ripon Police Department has not dealt with any thefts of catalytic converters.

Similarly, Fond du Lac County Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt says his department has not had a problem with catalytic converter thefts, but he is aware of thefts in other parts of the state through alerts shared by investigating agencies.

“The only theft that has occurred in recent months was several months ago when one was stolen off a vehicle that was up for auction parked at an auto auction site,” he said.

In neighboring Green Lake County, there have been approximately five reported catalytic converter thefts over the last couple months, Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matthew Vande Kolk says.

There also have been a number of thefts in both the city of Berlin and the city of Princeton, he added.

“In most instances, these are happening in the middle of the night and the owners of the vehicles are coming to the vehicle and finding the catalytic converter removed,” Vande Kolk said.

Waldschmidt says law enforcement sees thefts of specific metals fluctuate due to specific metals being more expensive at a given time.

Currently, he says the two metals at a higher-than-usual value are rhodium and platinum, both of which are used in small quantities in catalytic converters.

In fact, rhodium has “skyrocketed” in value over the last few years from $600 an ounce in 2016 to just less than $20,000 an ounce, Waldschmidt added.

“Because of the high price of rhodium right now, even small quantities of the metal are of significant value,” he said. “... Scrap yards are paying upwards of $200 per catalytic converter right now, making it a lucrative trade for thieves.”

Waldschmidt described catalytic converter thefts as “a crime of opportunity” as “a skilled thief with the right tools can steal one off a vehicle in under 30 seconds.”

He said vehicles that sit higher off the ground — like pickup trucks and SUVs — allow for easy access under the vehicle where the catalytic converter is located make for easy targets.

“There are some popular aftermarket anti-theft devices on the market, including cages or shields that fit over the catalytic converter to protect it from theft,” Waldschmidt said. “Because it would take a lot of extra time to defeat the anti-theft device, a thief is more likely to move on to an easier target vehicle when they see one.”

He added that parking a vehicle in a garage or well-lit location, rather than a remote or dark location, also helps deter theft.

What this means for you:

Officials say the best thing the public can do to address the issue is to say something if they see something.

“If you see someone suspicious, or a vehicle parked suspiciously, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement and report your observations,” Waldschmidt said. “We’ll respond and check things out.

“... Far too often while we’re investigating a theft, burglary, or other crime, we are told by the victim or a neighbor that they observed something/someone suspicious earlier but didn’t report it. We’d much rather check it out and find it was nothing, than have to respond after the fact to investigate a crime.”

How to submit:

If you have a question, we want to give you an answer. Send a question, name and contact information to:

Mail: 303 Watson St., Ripon WI 54971, P.O. Box 262, Ripon WI 54971

Email: news@riponpress.com.

Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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