The Carlton County Disabled American Veterans have been the latest victims of a string of vandalism in the area, having had catalytic converters stolen from two of their vehicles.

Stan Heuer, commander of Chapter 18 Disabled American Veterans, the 2000 Ford cargo van was parked in the Premiere Theatre parking lot when they discovered the catalytic converter was cut out on Wednesday, May 6. The DAV logo is clearly written in large print on the van.

On Friday, May 29, the DAV filed another police report. Their 2005 GMC cargo truck had both catalytic converters stolen from the center of the exhaust. The truck was parked behind Super One in Cloquet.

“I don't know who would have the heart to do this to veterans,” Heuer said.

There were no cameras that reached the vehicles in either place.

Carlton County law enforcement agencies responded to 14 calls for stolen catalytic converters from October 2019 through May. Of those, the Cloquet Police Department responded to four, said Cloquet Police Chief Derek Randall, including the DAV vehicles.

Moose Lake police department responded to one converter theft in February, according to Sergeant Mike McNulty.

Brian Belich, chief deputy of Carlton County Sheriff's Department, said they answered nine calls, seven of which happened at the Scanlon Park and Ride when residents left a vehicle for several days. Most of the people who had equipment stolen drove higher clearance vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs, he said. The thieves use some type of power saw to cut the part out in a matter of minutes.

Cloquet resident Bill Wise, 57, had just replaced the exhaust on his 1998 mint condition Honda Accord in May. His car was parked outside and he had not left his house in downtown Cloquet for a few days. When he started his car, he knew immediately something was wrong.

“It sounded like a Sherman tank,” Wise said. “I didn't know what happened.”

He took his car, exhaust warranty in hand, back to the mechanic. They informed him his catalytic converter had been cut out and it would cost around $200 to replace it.

Wise said he has not been able to drive his car for several weeks as he waits for his next disability check to replace the stolen part.

He said he always counts his blessings and said other people have it worse than he does. He now parks his car in the garage every night.

The DAV had catalytic converters replaced in both vehicles for $900. That amount of money could have helped three veterans, depending on what their needs are, Heuer said.

“It takes money out of our checking account to help veterans in need in Carlton County,” he said.

Belich said the sheriff's office is working on some leads. They have been investigating recycling centers that pay for catalytic converters, as well.

“Be vigilant,” Belich said. “Park in bright places or in a garage. Watch for people walking around and looking under vehicles.”