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Brookfield police seeing increase in catalytic converter thefts

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BROOKFIELD -- Brookfield police have reported a number of businesses have been hit by thieves targeting catalytic converters. Police say the thieves have targeted an industrial area between Wauwatosa and Brookfield.

Police say crooks are stealing the catalytic converters however they can.

"They can cut them off, they can take them off with tools, they can tear them off. Nationwide, this is a huge problem. They're not just stealing catalytic converters. They're stealing wire cable and copper," Brookfield Police Captain Jim Adlam said.

Police say in recent weeks, nearly two dozen thefts have occurred at several businesses in Brookfield and Wauwatosa. Crooks are cashing in the stolen goods for just a few bucks, but it's costing businesses much more, as catalytic converters can run up to $1,500 a piece.

A truck outside Habitat for Humanity's ReStore was hit by the thieves. Jeri Kavanaugh with the ReStore said she's disheartened that the theft is now affecting Habitat's mission.

"It`s just frustrating and sometimes I think people really don`t understand what our mission is -- that we`re trying to help people. It doesn`t make a difference to them. Everything we get in the store is donated and we try to sell it at really reduced prices. Then, all the money goes to Habitat. If we`re taking something away from that, then we`re not meeting our goal of helping low income families build houses," Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh said she hopes police can track down the suspects.

Meanwhile, police are monitoring scrap yards, and say they believe multiple people are involved in these incidents.

"We`re networking with other agencies constantly trying to figure out where these things are going," Captain Adlam said.

Police say these kinds of thefts can happen anywhere. They suggest parking in a well-lit area -- and say surveillance video can be a big help in prosecuting these thieves.