Catalytic converter theft strands workers with disabilities

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The latest in a string of catalytic converter theft has impacted one of the area’s most valuable resources.

Ability Building Community (ABC) bus services in Rochester transport disabled community members to and from work. Early morning Sunday, someone snuck onto the grounds and stole four catalytic converters from four of their buses.

“We discovered it by starting up the buses,” said Crystal Heim, the public relations manager at ABC.

The buses were left undrivable and stranded approximately 40 people without a way to get to work.

“We had to re-route all 40 of those individuals served. And then it affects schedules, it affects programming,” Heim said.

ABC stands for Ability Building Community. The nonprofit connects people with disabilities to jobs in the community. Some individuals served work at local gas stations, and some provide cleaning services. The bus breakdown caused many to miss those jobs.

“That is how individuals with disabilities get to and from our building and to and from their work sites,” Heim said of the buses.

Carol has worked with ABC for 45 years. She uses the buses for work, and play.

“Sometimes I go to work, and sometimes I go to a Minnesota Twins game,” Carol said.

Transporting hard workers like Carol will be a challenge for ABC in the coming months. Only two of their four affected buses are drivable again. The other two are still waiting on new catalytic converters that were delayed due to supply chain issues.

Local car mechanics say replacing the catalytic converters will not be a cheap fix.

“Inside they do have precious metals to do their pollution control function — platinum being the main one. If you have a catalytic converter cut out, we do have to put one back in,” said Tim Schmitt, the owner of Schmitt Automotive Repair.

Schmitt said stolen converters are resold for $50 to $200. To replace them, however, is $500 to $2,000.

“Really the people that they’re affecting the most are the individuals with disabilities,” Heim said of the thieves.

ABC is asking those with any information on the case to reach out to the Department. The tip line number is (507)328-6800.