Numerous exposed catalytic converters that were removed from vehicles in Mesquite, Nev., March 28, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Mesquite Police Department, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – The number of catalytic converter thefts has increased over the past year as these precious metal-filled devices are hot targets for thieves and may only take a few minutes to remove – but are expensive to replace.
After receiving a number of reports of the theft of catalytic converters, the Mesquite Police Department issued a notice that was posted on the department’s Facebook page over the weekend.
A catalytic converter is an important part of a vehicle’s exhaust system and is a device filled with precious metals, such as platinum and palladium. Replacing these converters is very expensive, according to the opinion, and large trucks, vans and buses are the vehicles most targeted by thieves.
Mesquite Police Sgt. Wyatt Oliver told St. George News that it was when the national issue hit near his home – with five thefts reported in the past month or so, that the ministry decided to release the notice – along with advice security to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. of such theft.
As it turns out, Washington County is not immune to this type of criminal activity either, judging by the number of recently reported thefts across the region.
The St. George Police Department has had a “rash” of reports of the theft of catalytic converters, department spokesperson Tiffany Atkin told St. George News.
Hurricane officers have received two reports of the theft of catalytic converters in the past month, Hurricane Police Officer Ken Thompson said, while in Washington City the number of theft reports associated with converters has remained fairly static. Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said.
Dixie State Police Chief Blair Barfuss told St. George News the department reported a cluster of catalytic converter thefts around the university. He also said there were many reports of a Toyota Prius, which appears to be the make and model targeted by thieves.
Barfuss went on to say that they had been able to track a number of thefts on a few suspects who had come from Las Vegas, Nevada to the St. George area, adding that charges had been submitted to the prosecutor’s office. of Washington County for consideration. He also mentioned that a number of thefts had also been reported in the Cedar City area – quite a few, in fact.
Last month, a suspect was arrested in Cedar City, and before being transported to jail, officers searching the vehicle for stolen goods reportedly found a black duffel bag containing several catalytic converters that had been cut into vehicles – an arrest that was covered by Cedar. News from the city.
Additionally, a spate of catalytic converter thefts were reported at Southern Utah University in Cedar City in January, involving several vehicles that were stripped of the converters, mostly Honda Accords and Toyota Priuses, as previously reported by Cedar City News. .
Why the catalytic converter?
A catalytic converter is a device that looks like a small silencer and is designed to convert the dangerous exhaust gases emitted by an engine into less harmful gases – but it’s the precious metals used to make the devices that make them so attractive to people. thieves.
The price of palladium and other precious metals used in the manufacturing process has also seen an increase in recent years, and as the price continues to rise, so does the number of thefts involving these converters.
When the catalytic converter has been removed, the vehicle will make a loud roar which will become louder when the accelerator pedal is depressed and may also make a spray sound when shifting or may not drive as smoothly.
St. George News contacted Mike Mueller, owner of Red Rock Mechanical, who said thieves have been stealing catalytic converters for “years and years” and typically targeting larger vehicles, such as motorhomes. , larger trucks and vans, because the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the catalytic converter, which means a higher volume of precious metals sought after by criminals.
Last week, Mueller said, a customer brought in a truck to have a catalytic converter installed after discovering his had been stolen.
A converter can be cut or removed from a vehicle, depending on the make and model, in as little as 15 minutes or less, while other types of vehicles require more specialized tools.
Restricting access to the vehicle’s undercarriage is the best option to ward off thieves vying for these converters, he said, which can be accomplished by installing security cameras and parking in areas well. illuminated and secure as much as possible.
Taking security precautions to keep thieves away is also a good investment, as the costs associated with replacing a converter don’t come cheap – ranging from $ 500 to $ 2000 or more in some cases, depending on the size of the converter. vehicle, Mueller said.
Theft, Property Crimes and COVID-19
Across the country, catalytic converter thefts have followed an upward trend similar to other property crimes, including auto thefts and car hijackings, as well as vehicle break-ins – a trend that started in March of last year, followed by stay-at-home orders issued across the country. , according to Allstate.
The increase is supported by the data. In 2018, for example, 108 thefts of catalytic converters were reported on average per month. The following year, that number nearly tripled with 282 thefts reported. But in 2020, those numbers exploded, according to the analysis, with more than 1,200 thefts per month on average, according to an analysis by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Simply put, the number of thefts has increased from 108 to 1,200 in three years, according to the bureau’s analytical study.
At the same time, the value of precious metals also saw a dramatic spike, including rhodium which is one of the many metals used to make these converters and which was valued at $ 14,500 per ounce in December.
David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, described catalytic converter thefts as “an opportunistic crime” and said there is a clear link between times of crisis, limited resources and disruption. of the supply chain that drives criminals to these precious metals. .
The problem has not escaped the attention of legislatures in 18 states which are currently evaluating measures to curb the problem, and in Utah, metal theft has been a statewide problem since 2009.
So much so that the issue was brought up at a Congressional Subcommittee hearing on Crime and Drugs held the same year when Senator Orrin Hatch said during his testimony that “thieves always more enterprising people have discovered a new opportunity for crime, ”by stealing metal which can be quickly converted into cash by reselling it to scrap dealers.
Utah is also one of many states that have passed metal theft laws. The Metal Theft Amendments bill enacted in Utah in 2009 requires dealers to keep records of all buyers, including their name and driver’s license number or other photo ID, and includes a section on catalytic converters. It also makes a defendant liable for damages caused during their theft.
In Arizona, a law has been passed that prohibits any purchase of a catalytic converter unless it is from an auto repair company or recycler, and the purchase of certain metals is completely prohibited.
Nevada has enacted legislation that not only requires metal processors to keep records of all purchases, but also that buyers of metals must obtain a license.
The Mesquite Police Department has released a list of safety tips to help consumers reduce the risk of falling victim to this type of theft, and while nothing is foolproof and thefts can still happen, Oliver said. , at the very least, they can help. law enforcement by identifying thieves, thus avoiding further thefts.
The first tip is to frequently check your vehicle and start the vehicle to determine if the catalytic converter is still there. Vehicle owners can also install security cameras and an anti-theft device, many of which are available on the Internet and are designed to protect the converter against theft.
Painting the catalytic converter with a high temperature fluorescent orange paint and writing the vehicle identification number on the device can also help and may deter a scrap metal dealer from accepting it.
Mueller said the best bet is to make sure the vehicle is parked in a location that acts as a deterrent.
“Anywhere where sufficient lighting and high visibility let these guys know if they’re climbing under your vehicle, there’s a very good chance they’ll get caught.”
The full list of safety tips can be accessed by clicking here.
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