The Havasu Community Health Foundation receives thousands of donations each year, but automotive parts aren’t typically among them.
The Foundation’s food bank was among the most recent victims in a surge of catalytic converter thefts throughout Lake Havasu City over the past month, when unidentified suspects entered the facility’s parking lot and removed the device from the organization’s delivery truck. Word of the theft spread on social media in recent weeks, and a Southern California catalytic converter manufacturer has offered to replace the stolen part for free.
“I live in Southern California, but I spend a lot of time in Havasu,” said MagnaFlow Field Support technician Jim Cates. “I purchased a boat in Havasu, and I own a timeshare at the London Bridge Resort. I follow all of the Havasu feeds on social media, and I saw a post about the theft.”
The theft occurred between Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, and was reported on Facebook and other social media outlets by supporters of the Health Foundation. When Cates learned of the theft, he asked his employer, Nick Palone, if there was anything the company could do to help.
“I talked to my boss, and he said he’d put the order in and get it shipped,” Cates said.
According to Cates, the part’s retail value was about $900. And although the theft from a charitable organization appalled him, it didn’t surprise him.
“About half of my work involves traveling,” Cates said. “Catalytic converter thefts are a big problem throughout the U.S, and Ford vehicles are among the top three most targeted vehicles. I see these thefts on a daily basis.”
Catalytic converters are devices that filter harmful fumes from a vehicle’s exhaust. The devices contain precious metals including rhodium, palladium and platinum, making them an attractive target for potential thieves. Pickup trucks and other large vehicles are most commonly targeted for catalytic converter thefts, according to the Lake Havasu City Police Department, due to their high clearance from the ground.
“It’s a big problem in major cities, but the TV media is broadcasting it nationwide,” Cates said. “The media focus is making it so that criminals in smaller communities may also want to capitalize on it.”
According to Cates, the Havasu Community Health Foundation expressed its appreciation for the new catalytic converter this week. The vehicle now waits at Tri-Tech Automotive in Havasu, where the part could be replaced sometime this week.
“I know they’re a nonprofit, and the money they would have spent for this replacement can instead go toward people who need to be helped,” Cates said. “I know the homeless problem is growing, and a large percentage of them are U.S. veterans. We want to do whatever we can do to help.”
According to Food Bank Manager Colleen Mattinson, it isn’t the first time thieves have targeted the facility. Since last April, there have been three reported thefts and one burglary at the location. By far, however, this month’s catalytic converter theft was the most expensive.
“There are hungry people out there who need help, and people are stealing from us,” Mattinson said. “This thing was shared on Facebook again and again, until we were contacted by (Cates). It would probably cost about $3,000 to replace the part. The donation will mean less money out of our pocket and more for people who need it.”
The truck is used to deliver food from donors and vendors to the food bank, Mattinson said, and no new large food deliveries will be made this week until the vehicle is repaired.
The donation precedes National Hunger Action Day, which will fall on Sept. 17. Havasu residents and donors can observe National Hunger Action Day by donating to local food banks, and wearing orange-colored clothing to raise awareness of hunger in communities throughout the U.S.