Police looking into rash of converter thefts

Mike Genet
Wayne Morris of Wayne's Auto Repair in Mountain Home, Arkansas, demonstrates how a catalytic converter can be marked with an identifying number to help deter theft of the expensive exhaust devices. There have been a rash of thefts of the exhaust system parts for the metals contained in them in Independence and Blue Springs recently.

Blue Springs Police have been investigating an uptick this year in catalytic converter thefts from vehicles, as thieves swipe the exhaust system part for its valuable metals.

Thus far in 2020, police there have received 20 separate incidents of converter theft – often multiple vehicles at once. Each reported incident happened overnight, and all but one has happened since the beginning of March. That compares to 11 such thefts in all of 2019, eight in 2018 and just three in 2017.

The catalytic converter is on the underside of a vehicle and is part of the exhaust system, helping to filter emissions. Thieves often cut the pipe that connects it to the engine, and they’ll take the parts to an accomplice scrap metal place that strips them for metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium that are crucial for filtering.

Jennifer Dachenhausen, crime analyst for the Blue Springs Police Department, said the price of such metals has risen quite high in recent months, and locally the thieves had mainly targeted businesses with multiple vehicles in a lot.

“They’re all trucks or vans or econo-line vans,” she said.

They not only have larger converters, Dachenhausen said, but also sit higher off the ground, giving thieves a better chance to quickly take off the part.

“In one place we found two saws (left behind),” she said.

Independence Police said they’ve also received a recent string of converter theft reports this spring and have seen a metro-wide rise since April, including businesses along U.S. 24. Auto repair, car purchase and car rental lots have been especially vulnerable.

While thieves might net a couple hundred dollars from the valuable metals, Dachenhausen said, replacing the catalytic converter on a vehicle can cost triple that – several hundred dollars if not $1,000 or greater, depending on the vehicle and necessary customization.