‘We are the first to try anything like this’: AAA, Colorado team up to tackle catalytic converter thefts

Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed in Colorado. Now, there's a way you can protect yourself from being targeted.
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 7:17 PM MDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2021 at 7:41 AM MDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DENVER (KKTV) - Catalytic converter thefts are surging to historic levels in Colorado, so the state is rolling out a first-of-its-kind program to prevent thieves from cashing in.

According to state data, 151 catalytic converters were reported stolen in 2019. Last year, that number jumped to 930. So far this year, 2,485 converters have been reported stolen across Colorado.

“Catalytic converters are so attractive to thieves because they are easily stolen,” said Skyler McKinley, the regional director of public affairs for AAA.

There’s no serial or VIN number on the converters, which makes them hard to trace once they’ve been stolen.

“There has been no way for salvage yards, recyclers, auto parts purchasers to know whether the catalytic converter that lands in front of them is legitimate or stolen and illegitimate,” McKinley said. “That’s what we’re fixing.”

11 News has been tracking this crime trend since the beginning of the year. Earlier this week, we told you about the increase in catalytic converter thefts in Colorado Springs, which have skyrocketed by more than 3,400 percent.

Now, there’s something you can do to protect yourself.

“We are going to etch serial numbers onto every catalytic converter that gets in front of our shops,” McKinley said. “Those serial numbers are entered into a trackable, searchable database by law enforcement.”

He said it only takes a few minutes to install.

“It is both a sticker and a chemical etching, so if a thief crawls underneath, they’re going to see a sticker. It’s really difficult to remove that sticker. If they manage to, they’re going to be in for a surprise because there’s also then an engraved serial number underneath there,” McKinley said. “Now, if a thief then attempts to file that off, that’s also going to be a red flag for anybody who is buying these on the secondhand market that, ‘Oh, this is probably stolen. I might get in legal trouble if I buy this off this thief.’”

This free program is in partnership with AAA and the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority. It’s funded through taxpayer dollars.

In the first year, AAA is hoping to leave a mark on 10,000 catalytic converters. People who get the serial numbers etched onto their converters will also get a sticker to put in their window to deter thieves.

“Once thieves know that this is not something that can be easily stolen, they’re going to stop stealing catalytic converters,” McKinley said. “If you approach a vehicle that clearly has catalytic converter protection in place, it’s just not worth, financially, the exercise because you might be caught now -- and we could not say that before -- and also, you might not be able to sell the device -- and we could not say that until now.”

The program was first announced Wednesday, and McKinley said they’re already getting calls from law enforcement and government agencies across the country asking how they can replicate it.

“We are the first to try anything like this. Catalytic converter theft is a massive problem across the country. Colorado is the first state to really commit to an initiative of this scope and size,” McKinley said. “So if it works here -- and I’m optimistic we can make a difference -- it will move the needle across the country.”

McKinley said people can get the sticker installed on their catalytic converter by taking their car to get serviced at one of the participating auto shops. A full list of locations, including nine in Colorado Springs and two in the Pueblo area, can be found here. The sticker will be provided for free.

“This is just an easy way to have a little bit of safety, security and peace of mind,” McKinley said. “If people commit to doing this, if everybody who hears this message says, ‘Oh, I should check that out,’ we really can put a stop to this.”

For more information, visit AAA’s website.

Copyright 2021 KKTV. All rights reserved.