Suspect steals catalytic converter off nonprofit van that helps seniors

A nonprofit that helps senior citizens is out several thousand dollars after someone recently stole the catalytic converter to one of their vans.

Senior Access provides free transportation to help seniors maintain independence. They serve the areas of Round Rock, Pflugerville, Hutto, and East Austin. They have about 1,200 clients and provide about 350-400 rides a week. 

In surveillance video from Feb. 20, a car is seen driving by and going towards where the vans are parked. There are no cameras by that church parking lot. The car turns before it gets too far away to see. That's when executive director Serita Lacasse says the suspect saws off the catalytic converter to one of their vans.

"Our driver went to drive it at 8, and he came in and he said, 'oh my goodness, it's making this huge sound,' because it sounds like a motorcycle when that's gone," she said.

She says a lot of auto shops have waitlists, and they finally got it towed to a shop Friday.

"It'll probably be about $2,500-$3,500 because of having to adjust schedules and stuff like that, pay people at different times to do things, it's going to cost to do that, plus the labor, and the towing," she said.

With one less van in their fleet of five vehicles, they're adding more routes to the vans they already have, resulting in longer days to keep giving seniors a dependable ride to grocery stores.

"Think about when you get older, and you're older, you can't get out. You can't go to the grocery store," she said. "We're providing them that weekly security, that every week I know I can get what I want, I can do it on my own, I don't have to rely on my kid, my grandkid."

Now they've moved the rest of their fleet right under the security camera. The church they partner with will be adding cameras.

"Oh my gosh, you don't think that somebody would come steal in a church parking lot or a charity van. You just don't think there's people out there that would do that," Lacasse said.

Lacasse says this is her message to the suspect.

"I just want you to think about how many people you hurt, and think about yourself if you couldn't drive. How would you get to places, and what would you feel like if somebody took away your only transportation?" she said.

Senior Access says they're always looking for volunteers. They have one of their big fundraisers next month to raise money for van maintenance. They're hoping to raise more this year because of the setback.

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