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Voice of the consumer: Colorado organizations launch program to deter catalytic converter thieves

Jenna Middaugh
Jenna Middaugh(KKTV)
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:47 AM MDT
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Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed around the country. Colorado is the first state to start a program to prevent thieves from stealing them.

Catalytic converters control your car’s exhaust emissions, and criminals are usually after the metal inside.

“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,” said Detective Dennis Mallett with the Sand Creek Investigation Unit of the Colorado Springs Police Department.

According to CSPD, only three catalytic converters were reported stolen in 2019 in Colorado Springs. Last year, that number jumped to 106. As of June 11, 2021, police had 163 reports of stolen converters.

“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,” Mallett said. “We’re getting anywhere from 8 to 10 (reports) a week now.”

Statewide, the numbers are even more staggering. In 2019, there were a total of 151 catalytic converters reported stolen across Colorado. Last year, that number rose to 930. In the first half of 2021, nearly 2,500 converters were reported stolen in the state.

Skyler McKinley, AAA’s regional director of public affairs, said the converters are so easily stolen and sold because there’s no serial number or VIN to track them.

“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,” McKinley said.

That’s why AAA Colorado recently announced it had teamed up with the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority to offer a first-of-its-kind program to help prevent catalytic converter thefts.

“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, so the second somebody tries to buy a catalytic converter, they can then read that barcode, that serial number and know, ‘Oh, well, this is not the person who’s purporting to be the owner. What happened here?’”

People who get their catalytic converter labeled will also be given a sticker to put in their car 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. And 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.”

McKinley said the labeling service is being provided for free by AAA Approved Auto Repair shops if you take your car to get regular maintenance at one of the shops. The process only takes a few minutes. You can learn more about the program and find an eligible auto shop at www.aaa.com/stoptheft.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.

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