If you own a Lexus SUV and plan on parking it in the parking lot of one of North Riverside’s shopping centers, be forewarned. Those vehicles were targeted recently by catalytic converter thieves.

Three such thefts reportedly occurred on Feb. 20 at three different locations in the village – all involving Lexus SUVs.

The first occurred between 3:30 and 4:15 p.m. in the parking lot of Goodwill, 1900 Harlem Ave. The owner of a red Lexus said that when she left the parking lot, her vehicle sounded louder than normal. When she got home, she discovered that the catalytic converter had been removed.

The second occurred some time between 10 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. in the parking lot of the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road. The owner of a white 2004 RX330 said that when she started her vehicle, it was extremely loud. She brought it to the auto dealer, who informed her that the catalytic converter was removed.

The third incident, which happened some time prior to 4:40 p.m. in the parking lot of Kohl’s, 2200 Cermak Road, was apparently caught on tape.

Kohl’s security turned over video footage, which shows a white older model Buick pull up next to a tan 2005 Lexus. Two men get out of the Buick and one retrieves an item from the trunk. That man then lies down next to the Lexus while the other man keeps watch.

In less than a minute, the two men place an item into the back seat of the Buick and drive away. The item removed from the vehicle was the catalytic converter.

Thefts of catalytic converters have spiked in recent months. A crew of thieves removed the catalytic converters from 62 vehicles parked in the lot of a North Riverside car dealership over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2011.

In December 2011, the catalytic converters were removed from five trucks parked at U-Haul in Forest Park. Then in one night in January, catalytic converters were removed from 24 vehicles belonging to a Forest Park landscaping company.

The converters contain valuable metals and can be sold to scrap dealers for between $50 and $200 apiece.

Two-village crash site

An 18-year-old Broadview resident was cited under Illinois zero tolerance statute and received several traffic citations after her reportedly drove his 2002 Dodge Stratus into three cars parked in the driveway of a home in the 2600 block of Maple Avenue, Brookfield, about midnight on Feb. 25.

The owner of the damaged vehicles said he came outside after hearing a crash and observed Zachary White standing outside the vehicle. Two passengers in Watkins’ car fled the scene, according to the witness.

Police reported smelling alcohol on Watkins’ breath, but Watkins denied drinking and asked for medical assistance, claiming his head was bleeding. Police reported that no blood was present.

While paramedics were tending to Watkins, police learned that Watkins also reportedly struck a tree and fire hydrant on the LaGrange Park side of Maple Avenue prior to crashing into the cars on the Brookfield side.

He was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, improper lane usage, driving too fast for conditions, driving on the sidewalk and operation of an uninsured vehicle. 

Foreclosed home burglarized

A sales agent for a home in foreclosure in the 4200 block of Raymond Avenue, Brookfield, reported to police that sometime between noon on Feb. 17 and 10 a.m. on Feb. 25 someone forced open a door and removed a stainless-steel dishwasher and oven from the kitchen.

Nothing else appeared to be missing from the residence.

Gang graffiti

Brookfield police reported that someone spray-painted what appeared to be gang graffiti on a pair of garages between 6:30 and 8:15 p.m. on Feb. 20. The garages were behind residences in the 4500 block of Elm Avenue and the 4500 block of Park Avenue.

In that time, it appears that on one garage, the original graffiti had been crossed out and rival gang graffiti painted below it. Gang graffiti was also found on a dumpster along the side of one of the garages.

Police recovered a can of spray paint from the scene.

These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, Feb. 20-26, 2012, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.

– Compiled by Bob Uphues