Catalytic converter thefts continue to soar, experts say it will get worse

Published: Jun. 19, 2022 at 9:23 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Capt. James Schueller has helped catch numerous criminals during his career with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office. But lately, there’s a specific type of criminal that stays on top of his mind.

“It’s sad to say, but I think it’s a sign of the times right now,” Capt. Schueller said.

Catalytic converter theft is continuing to climb across the nation. When it comes to these crimes in the Midwest, Minnesota is at the top of the list for highest theft rates.

“With the way things are going everyday, crimes are on the rise, it continues to just be a way for someone to take advantage of victims,” he said. “And make that quick cash. It’s sad that it happens.”

“Within the last two days, we’ve had multiple reports come in from the county side,” Schueller continued.

According to the Rochester Police Department, catalytic converter theft has more than tripled since 2019.

2019 15 (RPD) 5 (OCSO)

2020 70 (RPD) 3 (OCSO)

2021 223 (RPD) 58 (OCSO)

Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL) of Mendota Heights, is among a few lawmakers pushing for a change.

“When I hear the increase of catalytic converter theft, it just really marks the fact that we really need to act as a state,” she said.

Richardson would like the state to give more power to law enforcement, giving them the right to investigate if multiple catalytic converters are found when pulling someone over. She also wants to keep scrap dealers accountable for purchasing the converters.

“We really need to close the loops within the industry that allow people to continue to profit off of that theft,” Richardson said.

According to the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, there’s $25 million in catalytic converter claims form drivers with insurance in 2021. Spokesperson with IFM, Mark Kulda, said it’s going to start impacting insurance premiums.

“Back in 2018, there were only 40 reported in the entire state,” Kulda said. “And now, we’re seeing cities with thousands of them. To the point where in November, the increase was 9,900 percent increase in reported thefts.”

While Kulda doesn’t know exactly what would curb the crime, he said something needs to happen.

“It’s an expensive problem. And sadly, whatever the state is doing is not working yet, because we are still seeing an alarming rate of thefts everyday,” he said.

There are things you can do to protect yourself from catalytic converter theft. The easiest, is to park in a well lit area, or a garage. Kulda also recommends getting a security camera. Criminals are starting to just remove the precious metals from the converters, instead of the entirety of the converter, so Kulda recommends putting a cage on your converter to cover it.

The state has done some work to prevent these crimes, like the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Pilot Program. The program teamed up with local law enforcement agencies, like Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office, to get catalytic converters labeled with a kit. The label makes it possible for law enforcement to trace a recovered converter back to its vehicle if its stolen. At last check, OCSO had about 30 kits left.

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