KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two suspects in recent catalytic converter thefts around the metro were taken into custody Thursday. On Friday, one was charged with 1st degree tampering with a motor vehicle.
Clay County prosecutors Friday charged Jon Keith Kelley, 49, with three counts of felony tampering with a motor vehicle. Kelley and another man were arrested Thursday after Kansas City police officers say they tracked them and witnessed Kelley underneath vehicles in Kansas City, Kan.
Kelley was taken into custody at a home near 22nd and Olive in Kansas City, Mo. around 1 p.m., Thursday. The two suspects fled from police; one ran down the street and the other went into the house. The SWAT team was called, but shortly after their arrival the man in the house came out with his hands up.
Officers say they have been looking for the suspects for a while and witnessed them steal converters from two vehicles Thursday morning in KCK near KU Med.
Recently thieves targeted a Blue Springs High School parking lot and damaged several students’ vehicles parked near the school. Police say seven catalytic converters were stolen from the parking lot at Centennial Pool, and two were taken from cars parked at nearby Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is unclear if the suspects taken into custody are connected with the Blue Springs incident.
Summit South Auto Repair in Lee's Summit has replaced catalytic converters for four more victims in the past week.
“They can be under the car cut it off and be gone in less than a minute," mechanic Bryan Thoreson said.
Replacing a catalytic converter can run anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000.
Thoreson says it an ongoing problem, with thieves in search of easily accessible precious metals they can scrap for cash, especially on smaller GM autos.
“It’s happening to a lot of cars. A couple years ago it happened to my daughter’s car while she was at work. My business partner one of his cars had it stolen off of it, parked in the parking lot here,” Thoreson said.
Police believe that the suspects may be responsible for hundreds of catalytic converter thefts across the metro.
“If they catch somebody doing it hopefully it will hit the media and the rest of the thieves if there are any will find out they are cracking down on it and hopefully it will stop," Thoreson said.