JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. — The Jeffersontown Police Department said six people responsible for stealing hundreds of catalytic converters have been arrested (five booked and one on citation arrest). According to a press release, the department recovered $100,000 worth of stolen converters.
Police said the suspects have been charged with engaging in organized crime, receiving stolen property and trafficking in stolen auto parts.
Jeffersontown Police released the names of the six people arrested:
- Redzep Beganovic
- Tahira Osmanovic
- Brankica Osmanovic
- Elvis Osmanovic
- Elvir Osmanovic
- Zilhad Colic
Police showcased nearly 200 catalytic converters inside a white van they seized this week. Chief Rick Sanders called it a major theft ring connected to larger groups of crime in Jefferson County.
"I was shocked to see the amount they had," Chief Sanders said. "High level violators."
Chief Sanders says thieves have been ordered to steal the parts inside Jefferson County, and then proceed to get them into the hands of buyers located in areas outside it.
Chief Sanders was joined by Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Scott Drabenstadt, who links the thefts to a network of others: Hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank transfers then used for drugs, jewelry and cars.
"It's all a big chain that encourages and promotes all kinds of criminal activity," Drabenstadt said.
For perspective, WHAS 11 spoke with Ned Steinke, who's worked at Bluegrass Muffler & Brake Inc. for around 20 years.
"They're being stolen, processed and put into other vehicles in other countries," Steinke said.
Steinke tells us this problem won't truly be fixed until cases are handled differently.
"Prosecute it on a federal level because it's a federally mandated part that has to be on the car," Steinke said.
Meanwhile, Chief Sanders says he's calling for new policy in Frankfort -- honing in on those purchasing the stolen parts themselves.
"Because it's pretty easy to walk in and sell one of these things, no questions asked. "Without the buyers, these thieves wouldn't have anywhere to unload."
We're told felony charges will lead to prosecution soon, and attorneys say possibly as many as 10-20 years locked up.
Jeffersontown Police say they expect more arrests tied with these thefts in the weeks to come.
As far as what you can do to prevent this, police say park out of sight or in well lit areas at night as much as possible. And if in commercial cars, they say don't leave them at business buildings overnight.
There are also devices you can buy to make stealing catalytic converters harder.
Catalytic converter thefts in Louisville
Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) data shows that more than 1,340 catalytic converters have been reported stolen in Louisville between Jan. 1 and Oct. 20, 2021.
The area with the most thefts appears to be Division Six, which includes:
- Preston Highway
- Bardstown Road
- Taylorsville Road
- Hikes Lane
- Hurstbourne Parkway
According to the data, more than 300 converters have been reported stolen in that area.
Catalytic converters take toxic fumes from vehicles and turn them into water vapors and carbon dioxide. They’re a target for theft because they have valuable metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium inside.
Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance in May 2021 to combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts. The ordinance restricts scrap yards and other businesses from buying a catalytic converter unless it's attached to and bought as part of a vehicle.
Police said catalytic converter thieves are likely to target isolated areas. People are urged to be aware of their surroundings and park in areas that have multiple people coming and going to deter thieves.