Catalytic converter thefts skyrocket in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Police Department says officers are seeing a rash of catalytic converter thefts.
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 3:26 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - 11 News has been closely tracking catalytic converter thefts in the community.

We first told you about the problem earlier this year when Silver Key Senior Services reported thieves stole seven catalytic converters off its vehicles in the span of just three months. Fountain Valley Senior Center also reported its organization’s vehicles were hit.

“Since about August of last year, we’ve seen a huge increase in catalytic converter thefts, and as of right now, it seems to be picking up a little more,” said CSPD Detective Dennis Mallett. “We’re getting anywhere from eight to 10 a week now.”

Between 2019 and 2020, catalytic converter thefts in Colorado Springs increased by more than 3,400 percent. So far in 2021, more catalytic converters have been reported stolen than the previous two years combined.

“This is too large for one group,” Mallett said. “We’re seeing it all over the county involving numerous groups, different vehicles.”

The Colorado Springs Police Department says officers only received three reports of stolen converters in 2019. In 2020, that number jumped to 106. As of June 11, 2021, 163 catalytic converters have been reported stolen to Springs police.

Det. Mallett said no vehicle is off limits.

“We’re seeing it all over, a lot of industrial areas,” he said. “They’re looking for, obviously, an easy target where no one’s around.”

That’s exactly what happened to Chris Murray in May. He said his catalytic converter was stolen off his car -- which was parked in his driveway in Colorado Springs -- in the middle of the night.

“I realized it happened when I started my car, and it was obnoxiously loud,” Murray said.

Murray told 11 News he filed a police report and provided CSPD with a few seconds of surveillance footage.

“We can see them doing it, but we didn’t actually get anything identifying off of it,” he said. “It’s a cheap camera, so you can see the shape of the vehicle and a person running under my car, but that was about it.”

A Colorado Springs man shared this surveillance video with 11 News of someone stealing a catalytic converter off his car.

As we’ve reported before, thieves are after the metal inside catalytic converters.

“There’s three precious metals in them that, and I’ve done a little research, that are actually more valuable than gold right now. It’s platinum, palladium, and rhodium,” Mallett said.

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, repairs can be costly.

According to Colorado Springs police, Atlas Preparatory School was hit by thieves in May. Cynthia Peña, the charter school’s enrollment coordinator, said two catalytic converters were stolen off its two activity vans.

“It was $4,500 each for replacement,” Peña said.

She said the vans, which are used to transport students to games and stock the school’s food pantry, were out of service for about three weeks. During that time, the school had to rent other buses.

“It became an extra cost that wasn’t in the budget,” Peña said. “When you target a nonprofit like us, it affects us, but it also affects our community, our students and our families.”

Fortunately, Peña said an anonymous donor gifted the school $10,000 to cover the repair costs.

The crime was caught on camera. Peña said the school provided the surveillance video to Colorado Springs police, and detectives were able to identify two suspects as 35-year-old Joey Bailey and 40-year-old Dustin Lees.

Joey Bailey (left) and Dustin Lees (right)
Joey Bailey (left) and Dustin Lees (right)(Colorado Springs Police Department)

“What we’re doing is trying to park all of our vehicles right in front of a camera and a lighted area just to make sure that, at least, if somebody does do something, at least we can see who it is,” Peña said.

That’s what officers recommend everyone do.

“I would recommend they put their vehicles in a well-lighted area, maybe a well-traveled area,” Mallett said. “Video surveillance cameras are nice. It may not prevent the theft, but it might give us the leads we need to pursue and identify suspects.”

According to the Colorado Springs Police Department, the suspects are 35-year-old Joey Bailey and 40-year-old Dustin Lees.

The Colorado Springs Police Department said officers also depend on the community. In early June, police were able to arrest two suspects accused of stealing catalytic converters because of a watchful witness.

CSPD said it also offers a free Home and Business Security Check Program where officers go out to evaluate homes and businesses and make recommendations to prevent crime. To have an officer come check your property, contact the crime prevention officers at your nearest Colorado Springs police station.

Murray said he now plans to park in his garage to prevent thieves from hitting his car again.

“I know ideally, that’s what I would have done from the beginning, but we also use our garage for a lot of other stuff, so it’s nice to have the space open, but I’ll keep parking in there to not have to worry about it again,” he said.

Murray also showed 11 News an aftermarket shield he bought to install over his converter to prevent it from being stolen.

“If it stops one person, it will be worth it,” he said.

If your catalytic converter is stolen, make sure to report it to Colorado Springs police by calling 719-444-7000.

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