MINNETONKA, Minn. — Two people have been arrested after several catalytic converter thefts were reported in Minnetonka.
Late Saturday or early Sunday, the surveillance system at Bartlett Tree Experts captured two men cutting the catalytic converters from five trucks in the company fleet.
"It seemed like they had a system down, working together and moving quickly," said manager Jon Heaton.
Heaton says the two suspects walked through the truck yard around 8 p.m. Saturday night, then returned a bit before midnight to do the dirty work. He says it took just 40 minutes for the suspects to cut off the converters with a sawzall or similar device before loading them into a van and driving off.
Heaton says he was told that other businesses nearby were hit as well, and a spokesperson for the city of Minnetonka confirmed that. Police also responded to reports of catalytic converter thefts at A.H Hermel and the Eden Prairie Islamic Center. All three victims are in the same neighborhood.
After Minnetonka Police shared the description of the vehicle, the Crime Information Sharing and Analysis (CISA) Unit put out an alert. On Thursday, Wright County deputies spotted a van matching the description of the suspect vehicle. They stopped the van and saw tools mentioned in Minnetonka's alert, along with other evidence.
Wright County deputies arrested two people for possession of stolen property, including catalytic converters, and possession of "theft tools."
Estimates on replacement of the converters and repairs on the exhaust systems on the Bartlett trucks alone run between $12,000 and $15,000.
“This is a good reminder that though much of the state is shutting down, law enforcement isn’t," said Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson on Friday. "If you think crime will be easier when we’re self-quarantining, you’re wrong. Our staff and our great partners in law enforcement will be out in force and we will be arresting those who try to take advantage of this situation.”
Catalytic converters are a component of vehicle exhaust systems that are valuable as they contain precious metals that are coveted by recyclers.
The city of Minnetonka spokesperson said that catalytic converter theft is a significant problem throughout the metro area, and not exclusive to Minnetonka.