Stolen catalytic converters hamper free ride service

Find how brazen thefts have hurt the Ride Connection, based in the Gateway District, by crippling their vehicles …

After thieves cut and remove catalytic converters from outer East Portland vehicles in the Ride Connection parking lot, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, many of their riders are left stranded.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It wasn’t the Grinch who stole joy from the Holiday Season by ripping catalytic converters from transport vehicles on November 19: No, this criminal act done by uncaring thieves.

For more than three decades, Ride Connection, a private nonprofit organization, has been dedicated to coordinating and providing door-to-door transportation services to people with limited options – among other things, giving them a ‘lift’ to medical appointments.

In 2014, the organization moved its headquarters to the Hazelwood neighborhood, within the Gateway business district. [To read about their office grand opening, CLICK HERE.]

Now, several of the vehicles that provide these vital rides, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, sit motionless in their parking lot.

Because the catalytic converters used in these vehicles are difficult to obtain during the pandemic, many may be sitting idle for weeks, or longer, awaiting replacement parts.

In the middle of the night, in several different locations, criminals hacked ten catalytic converters off of their vans – seven of them in just one night.

The organization’s CEO, Julie Wilcke Pilmer, said she believed their vehicles were easy to identify because of the logos in them. “But also, because they use larger catalytic converters that are worth more.”

It costs their nonprofit about $2,300 to install each one of the exhaust-emissions controlling devices, she told reporters.

Their well-marked vehicles seem to have made them targets for catalytic converter thieves, the organization’s officials say.

Catalytic converters contain small amounts of precious metals, such as Palladium – currently worth $2,349 per ounce. These elements remove hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other harmful gases from exhaust emission. Unscrupulous junkyard operators seem willing to fence the stolen catalytic converters, paying the thieves pennies on the dollar.

“This has hurt our service and operation; it creates a situation where we don’t have the capacity to serve all the customers that we need to,” Wilcke Pilmer explained. “We’re doing everything we can to get our community’s most vulnerable citizens what they need and where they need to go,” Wilcke Pilmer reflected.

> To donate to Ride Connection, CLICK HERE.

Parts-jackers steal from residents, also
Thieves not only targeted Ride Connection transportation vans, but theyalso cut catalytic converters off vehicles of residents who live above the their offices in Glisan Commons apartments, which opened in 2014, providing 67 units of affordable housing.

Having the catalytic converter ripped from her Toyota Prius has left Michelle Bruggeman without reliable transportation, she says.

“Whoever did this also hit my car, as well as at least two other vehicles,” bitterly said resident Michelle Bruggeman.

“It’s outrageous! The police are doing their job, arresting the people doing this, but then, they’re just let out of jail and just keep stealing catalytic converters,” Bruggeman told East Portland News. “We’re told it’s ‘just a property crime’ – but when it disables a person’s transportation, it’s much more damaging than someone stealing a candy bar!”

Portland Police Bureau detectives ask that anyone with information about these stolen catalytic converters contact them at the “non-emergency line” – 503-823-3333..

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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