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Fisk Limousines, Springfield fixture for 45 years, among the many businesses hard hit by catalytic converter thieves

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 7:25 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Catalytic converter theft continues to be a major problem in the Ozarks and one of the better-known businesses in central Springfield has had its fair share of the problem.

”This is too big an issue in Springfield and Greene County not to do something about it,” said J. Howard Fisk, one of Springfield’s civic leaders who in 1976 started Fisk Limousines along with his wife Jan. A long time fixture in Springfield, the company actually offers a variety of transportation services from charter buses and the “Bearline” campus bus service at Missouri State to its well-known limos that have been used by generations of area residents for weddings, proms, graduations, birthdays...basically any kind of celebration or just someone who wants to pamper themselves with a fancy ride.

But during the pandemic when no one was going out, business dried up.

“Our buses were locked up on the lot,” Fisk said. “We were just like everyone else in the hospitality industry. Hotels shut down, food service shut down. We stopped our transit system at the university after all the kids went home in March (2020). All the conventions were cancelled. All those weddings that were planned were gone. And it was devastating because our expenses continued.”

If that wasn’t enough trouble another financial hit came when thieves started showing up on numerous occasions and stealing around 40 catalytic converters from buses and cars on the lot that cost over $3,600 dollars apiece to replace.

That’s over $100,000 worth of stolen items.

“That was just an expensive hit,” Fisk admitted. “We didn’t have the money to go out and repair vehicles we weren’t using.”

And that’s assuming you could find a replacement.

“At first we’d order replacements and get them in a couple of weeks,” Fisk explained. “Now we’ve gotten to the point where there’s such a theft problem in southwest Missouri that the factory catalytic converters aren’t even available. The whole community is suffering because of that. The repair shop that does our work will tell you that when I call and say we lost some catalytic converters, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, you’re about the fifth or sixth caller we’ve gotten already this morning and we don’t have any.’”

Fisk does have security footage from some of the crimes. One clip taken on a night when four converters were stolen shows two men pull up in a truck and nonchalantly get to work.

“We know that it’s a late model blue GMC pick-up,” Fisk said. “They cut through the fence, cut off four catalytic converters and left. But all over town it’s not just one or two people doing this. It’s 50 or 100 because there’s minimal entry in being able to do this. Anyone without a conscience can find a van or bus and shimmy under it and be out of there in just a few minutes.”

Fisk admits he’s frustrated by the increase in crime and apparently he’s not the only one. A business next door to his lot has a homemade wooden sign on the back that says, “Warning! Break in, you die!!”

Fisk has added more security at his lot and even painted his converters in bright red colors and stenciled the company’s name on them, a suggestion that security experts said would help deter thieves from stealing converters because they would be easily recognizable to police or salvage yard employees.

So what happened after the catalytic converters got the new paint jobs?

The thieves returned and got nine more.

“So that’s not going to protect me so much,” Fisk said with a laugh. “However, it may lead to capturing people who are doing this on a citywide basis.”

And that’s what Fisk is really upset about. It’s not that catalytic converter thieves are hitting his business, but that they’re even hitting places like schools, churches and non-profit organizations.

“All of those non-profit organizations who run special programs for people in our community,” Fisk pointed out. “These catalytic converter thieves robbed all these people who really need those support services like food, after-school programs for kids or services for the homeless and senior citizens. If you’re stealing from these non-profits you are really a despicable person.”

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