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Thieves target southwest Omaha daycare vans

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 5:16 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Daycare operators in southwest Omaha are angry about repeated thefts. Crooks are targeting the vans used to transport kids every day.

While children wait for a ride, Ben Schoemacker wonders if the daycare van will sound off.

Sure, enough the van’s catalytic converter cut out overnight.

“It just makes me mad they want to take it out on small businesses and kids really,” said Shoemacker.

Smooth cuts don’t mean thieves are surgically precise leaving a fluid puddle under a second Millard childcare van.

Meagan Clure, the daycare operator said, “They’re hitting other things and causing more damage, so it’s just added costs on top of everything else.”

Two miles west at 5:30 on a Saturday morning, a pair of thieves with battery hand saw steal catalytic converters off two vans at garden patch daycare. Though masked, one of them may be recognized by his walk.

Jill Stogdill, the daycare operator said, “It’s almost like his right leg something might be wrong with it I don’t know but he’s walking differently so the gate to me is identifiable.”

In recent weeks catalytic converters have but cut off eleven vans at four different Southwest Omaha daycares where operators say costs and frustration are adding up.

“It’s like they jaded us every time we turn them on let’s see if they’re going to work. They’re just sitting ducks out there at night all our vans are not in garages. Ultimately it hurts the kids because it’s things for them they no longer get to do or get to have because we have to allocate that money somewhere else.”

Catalytic converters contain precious metals and online prices show scrappers paying up to two hundred dollars or more depending on model.

So, Jim Sargent of Ace Mufflers is helping daycares deter more thefts.

Sargent said, “So if a van comes in the converters been stolen, I’ll put an aftermarket catalytic converter on there they will not take those. In the scrap world, it’s worth maybe $5.00.”

Sargent also adds Ace Muffler initials to warn local scrap yards a catalytic converter is stolen.

It’s difficult for daycare operators to watch their vans parked outside day and night so they’ve come up with a possible deterrent. These stickers that warn crooks the area is being monitored by cameras around the clock.

Adding cameras and other deterrents will show catalytic converter thieves that when it comes to stopping or catching them daycare operators aren’t kidding around.

The owner of two Omaha childcare centers has paid nearly nine thousand dollars to repair damaged vans. One scrap yard tells mike sellers are usually paid by check to help authorities track who is scraping a high number of catalytic converters.

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