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Cedar Rapids nonprofit left without critical transportation after catalytic converter theft

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A catalytic converter theft hit a nonprofit that runs a resale store in Cedar Rapids, leaving the group without a critical delivery van.

Gator Gaynor, manager of the Drop Inn, knew something was off when he tried to start the non-profit’s cargo van last week and heard loud pops. A repair shop gave him the bad news: someone stole the van’s catalytic converter.

“It’s just why, you know of all things, why? And then, with us, our very purpose is to help people,” Gaynor said.

It’s a $6,000 fix, according to Gaynor. The theft leaves them without a van to drop off items or pick up donations, the profits from which fund projects locally and around the world.

“It does affect things, because we use that van a lot for deliveries of larger items like furniture. And we also use it for pickups for larger items, especially for estate sales when we go and pick up a lot of boxes at one time,” Gaynor said.

The building that houses Drop Inn doesn’t have any outside cameras, leaving little in the way of clues as to who took it.

Tom Stout, with Professional Muffler, said the thefts are becoming more common. That increase is partially driven because of how easy it is to do.

“Most of the catalytic converters are underneath the vehicle where you slide underneath you can get to them relatively easy,” Stout said. “So they use a battery-operated saw, and it could take just a matter of seconds for somebody to go underneath the car and steal it.”

Stout said thieves are after the metals inside, which can fetch $300 to $500 on the black market.

“The metals that are inside of it are very precious. There’s palladium, rhodium, and platinum inside,” Stout said. “Those metals what they do, they take the ceramic brick that these metals are at here and they melt them down and take the precious metals out of them.”

Until the van is fixed, Drop Inn can’t do any deliveries, meaning customers either have to pick up orders themselves or wait. In the meantime, they are hoping someone who knows who stole from a charity would speak up and tell the police.

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