Mechanic beneath car

Denver Attempts to Curb Catalytic Converter Theft

New resources and tips are available to help prevent this crime from occurring


In early August, Denver City Council unanimously passed a new bill in an attempt to prevent catalytic converter theft. This measure requires scrap-yards to send specific information to the city about the seller within one day, including the seller’s car license plate and photo ID.

In 2021, according to the city, Denver saw catalytic converter thefts increase by nearly 900% year over year. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, this is a trend that was mirrored across many major cities throughout the past few years – a nationwide theft increase of 325% between 2019 and 2020.

Catalytic converters are surprisingly simple to remove – thieves only need a portable reciprocating saw and a few minutes to remove it from any vehicle. Without a catalytic converter, a vehicle will produce a loud, gargling sound similar to the sound that a major muffler leak makes when accelerating.

A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that converts toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion into less ­toxic pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction.

Why are People Stealing Them?

The bottom line as to why people are stealing catalytic converters is money. Because these parts consist of precious metals such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium, the scrap value can be over $200 per piece and sometimes up to $1000 based on the scrap rate.

For the victim, the result is nothing short of expensive. To cover a converter installation, costs run over $1,000. If any additional components were broken during the theft, the costs can run even higher.

Tips for Preventing Theft

Anti-theft Devices – Catalytic converter anti-theft devices are available in the form of steel plates that protect the underside of the vehicle with cages made from steel cables that make removal more time-consuming. Alarms are another good option that can be a deterrent to thieves. Though these can be expensive solutions, they are less costly than replacing the part.

Secure Parking – Often times, catalytic converter theft occurs in cars parked in unattended parking lots and on the street. To combat this, consider parking in a locked garage, a well-lit area, or somewhere with a lot of pedestrian traffic.

Report Theft – Victims of theft should always report the crime, even if it happens to an older car. Be sure to report to local law enforcement. The logged statistics that result can be used as valuable data to help legislators pass laws to make theft more difficult. In fact, 26 states have already enacted legislation to combat this theft and many others are considering taking the step as well.

Solutions to Help

As recently as June, the Colorado State Patrol offers special serial number etching onto catalytic converters for free. These serial numbers cannot be removed and are chemically etched onto the metal. Once etched, the unique number is tied to the vehicle’s VIN number and is traceable by law enforcement.

For interested parties, visit: lockdownyourcar.org.

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