Police: Catalytic converter thief nabbed

Jul 13, 2018 by

Published in the July 13, 2018 edition.

WAKEFIELD — Local law enforcers teamed up to catch a man they believe responsible for a rash of recent catalytic converter thefts near the downtown.

Early this morning, police arrested 37-year-old Christopher M. Towle, described as a homeless Wakefield man, after an officer came upon him near a parked pick up truck in the lower garage at 27 Water St. Other officers located a bag containing a reciprocating saw where Towle had been seen.

He has been charged with possessing burglarious tools and trespassing.

Wakefield Police detectives had been pulling together information surrounding the theft of eight catalytic converters in five incidents since June 13, all in the vicinity of Water Street, including one on New Salem Street. Each had been cut out of vehicles’ exhaust systems in the early morning hours.

Three officers working the midnight shift Thursday into today — Matt Powers, Rob Halliday and D.J. Morales — combined to arrest Towle. According to officials, Powers parked his cruiser around 1 a.m. in an area of Water Street that was difficult to detect in the darkness while Halliday and Morales kept an eye out in other areas near the downtown for suspicious activity.

Powers eventually saw a man in a dark sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head enter the lower level of the 27 Water St. garage, which is posted “No Trespassing.”

Powers also walked into the garage, and reported spotted Towle near the rear wheels of a white pickup truck that was parked between a couple of support poles. But Towle saw or heard Powers too, and began walking away from the truck.

Halliday and Morales were quickly on scene, and stopped Towle to talk to him. They said he had a small wire cutter on him.

Back in the parking garage, they found a DeWalt tool bag containing a sawzall and a pair of gloves.

“This was great work by these officers,” a police spokesman said. “Everyone involved did a fantastic job.”

Catalytic converters—which contain small amounts of valuable metals like platinum, palladium, or rhodium—command a good price as scrap metal, with some converters selling for as much as $640 on the black market.

According to the internet, catalytic converters are required on vehicles sold after 1975, as they mitigate the pollutants and other emissions that the car gives off when it’s running. Without a catalytic converter, your car won’t pass a smog test.

Thieves often target sport utility vehicles or pickup trucks because their ground clearance is sufficient for the thief to gain access to the converter without having to deploy a jack.

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