Thieves hit a nonprofit, impacting their ability to help individuals with disabilities and special needs.
Easterseals of Greater Waterbury said catalytic converters were stolen from more than a dozen of their vehicles, and this is not the first time they’ve been hit.
“Targeting an organization like Easterseals is quite honestly just devastating,” said Loraine Shea, president and CEO of Easterseals of Greater Waterbury.
A fleet of vans are out of commission after thieves hit the nonprofit's Watertown location on Sylvan Lake Road.
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Early Tuesday morning, Watertown Police said a man crawled under each van and sawed off the catalytic converters while a second man threw them into the back of a black four-door Acura with silver rims.
By the time morning came, the disability services provider said they discovered 15 vehicles were out of service.
“At this location in Watertown, that is where we provide day and employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Shea said.
Shea said because of the thefts, about 60 people they serve were unable to get to programs, volunteer work, jobs and other destinations on Tuesday.
“It’s a hardship on the individuals who depend on us every day to assist them with their employment or being out in the community or learning new skills,” Shea said.
With rentals in, they were back up and running on Wednesday. Shea said with a high insurance deductible, it’ll cost them more than $15,000 to fix their fleet, and the work is already underway.
This isn’t the first time they’ve been hit. About a year ago, Shea said 11 vehicles had their catalytic converters stolen.
Shea said they’ve taken precautions that police recommend which includes moving vehicles into the view of cameras and marking catalytic converters with orange paint.
The nonprofit is looking to put in even more security measures, but Shea worries anything they do will only slow down thieves instead of stop them.
“It’s extremely frustrating because it just takes all your energy and your focus away from what you’re supposed to be doing which is caring for our community and providing the services that are so necessary,” Shea said.
If you’d like to learn more about Easterseals of Greater Waterbury or donate, you can head here.
If you have any information on the case, you’re asked to call Watertown Police.