Westerly nonprofit’s handicap-accessible vans targeted by catalytic converter thieves

South County

WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ When employees of the Frank Olean Center in Westerly went to start up their handicap-accessible vans earlier this week, it was clear something was amiss.

Executive Director Ruth Tureckova tells 12 News that’s when they discovered the catalytic converters were stolen off of four of their vehicles.

“They are really important tools for us in the work that we do,” Tureckova said, adding that employees need the vans to transport their clients.

The nonprofit organization assists Rhode Islanders of all ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Tureckova said they believe the catalytic converters were stolen over the weekend while the vans weren’t being used.

All four of the affected vans, three of which are equipped with wheelchair lifts, are now out of service.

12 News reached out to Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey, who acknowledged that at least three catalytic converters were stolen from the nonprofit.

Tureckova said they learned about the fourth Wednesday morning, and now they’re struggling to make do with their remaining vans.

“I wanted to come out and put signs on the vans like ‘do you realize who you are hurting? Please rethink this. Who does this?'” she said. “It is a population that has enough challenges. Why add to that burden?”

Tureckova said there are no surveillance cameras outside the center, but that’s now something she’s looking into purchasing.

But in the meantime, she said her main focus is getting those vans fixed and back on the road.

“It’s another expense on a nonprofit that is just trying to do good work,” she said.

The Andrea Beach Bar is hosting a fundraiser for the Frank Olean Center next Wednesday between 5-9 p.m. During that time, 15% of all food and drink sales will be donated to the nonprofit.

Anyone interested in donating to the center directly can do so by clicking here.

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