St. Paul, Minnesota – You probably don’t put too much thought into what’s underneath your car unless you are a car mechanic or you’re a criminal. Catalytic converter theft is accelerating this year.
Catalytic converters are part of your exhaust system and control emissions. They have valuable metals that criminals can cut out in seconds and sell to scrapyards. If your catalytic converter is stolen, it could cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to replace it.
Technicians at Quality Care Tire and Auto in Bloomington, Minnesota, are getting ready to add some protection to a customer’s catalytic converter.
"There’s definitely been an increase in the theft of converters," owner Time Sandlin said. "It’s not just the converter. They do a lot of damage to the car."
Sandlin says people can spend a few hundred dollars on the custom deterrent system his team created, or they could spend a few thousand dollars to replace their converter. With this kind of crime increasing in the Twin Cities, he’s had more customers come in to make their converters harder to steal.
"None of this was on this vehicle. None of these still cables were in here or these bolts to hold the steel cables in," Sandlin said while describing their design.
Chris Zeuge lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has had his catalytic converter stolen twice in the past year.
"It is a life disruptor. It is costly for everybody, and it’s very frustrating that this is going on," Zeuge said.
His converter was stolen for the second time in January 2022, and due to supply chain issues, it could be a few more months before the parts come in to replace it.
"I’m going out a lot less. I’m a lot less trusting of where I go," Zeuge said. "It’s easy to be watched and scouted and in five minutes have this kind of thing happen to you."
Police in Minneapolis have reported a nearly 38% jump in catalytic converter theft compared to this time last year. Dallas has seen a 20% increase, and Philadelphia police have seen a 172% increase. According to Las Vegas Police Department data, officers have seen a roughly 87% hike. St. Paul Police report a nearly 20% increase.
"We’re only 3.5 months into this, and we’re already up 19 to 20% in our catalytic converter thefts. Again, we’re turning in the wrong direction, and we’re hearing from people that they’re frustrated, they’re angry, and they want somebody to do something," St. Paul Police Public Information Officer Steve Linders said.
Police say it’s hard to hold criminals accountable.
"I’ve read police reports and heard stories of our officers pulling over a vehicle, and they have four, five, six catalectic converters in the vehicle, but because we can’t prove that they necessarily stole the equipment, we can’t arrest them under current law," Linders said.
Minnesota’s Department of Commerce has partnered with local police departments and car dealerships to tag catalytic converters with labels that allow authorities to track them and charge thieves with a felony.
Some state senators are pushing for legislation to address this issue. It’s not just the state of Minnesota either.
The state of California, Washington, Oklahoma and other states have all introduced legislation.
In California, the bill would require converters to be marked with identification numbers and would tighten procedures for their sales and increase fines for stealing them.