DELAWARE COUNTY, Ohio — Most people probably don't think twice about parking in a public parking lot at a lake, leaving for a couple of hours and going to have fun. A man was indicted last week for stealing dozens of catalytic converters from parking lots near Alum Creek.
"It's the last thing I expected when my car broke down, that someone was going to steal things off my car when it was sitting beside the road,” said Kerry Reeds, whose catalytic converter was stolen.
Reeds pulled over on state Route 315 after his car was acting up. He left it there for a tow truck.
Just a couple of hours later when his car reached the mechanic's shop, they said his catalytic converter had been cut while his car was on the side of the road.
“I naively thought that happens in an unlit parking lot in the middle of the night in a bad neighborhood and at the edge of a shopping mall parking lot. Not sitting beside the highway in broad daylight,” he explained.
Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed recently. Nine catalytic converter thefts were reported in Hilliard in 2020. In 2021, there were 46 reports.
There were 19 reports of stolen catalytic converters in Gahanna in 2020, compared to 63 last year. Grove City reported nine stolen catalytic converters in 2020 compared to 92 last year.
“From the time the car rolls up to the time someone crawls underneath, cuts it and the time they get back in their car and leave, maybe 60 seconds,” said Delaware County Sheriff’s Office Detective Josh Bender.
Bender, along with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Sunbury Police and Genoa Township Police have been investigating Justin Cain for more than a year.
Cain was indicted on Thursday on 26 counts for stealing catalytic converters, mostly from parking lots around Alum Creek.
“ODNR had set up several trail cameras along the Alum Creek area. These trail cams were able to capture suspect vehicle,” Bender said, explaining how Cain was caught.
Bender said it's best to park under cameras or closest to a busy playground at parks, places where the thieves may be afraid of going. That may prevent a hefty bill at the mechanic's shop.
“They were sloppy in their work, so they tore up even more than what they stole. I had even more stuff to fix,” Reed said.