Amid spike in catalytic converter thefts, St. Paul PD hosting clinic to mark devices

The thefts of the devices have skyrocketed because the value of the precious metals they contain is increasing.
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A marked catalytic converter. This can help prevent them from being stolen. 

A marked catalytic converter. This can help prevent them from being stolen. 

Catalytic converter thefts have increased across the Twin Cities and the United States in recent months, and now the St. Paul Police Department is offering a way to help people prevent theirs from being stolen.

Police have long urged motorists to park in well-lit areas or a garage to help deter someone from sliding under their vehicle and taking off with their catalytic converter, but now the SPPD is offering a free, drive-through auto care clinic on Saturday where people can get their catalytic converters marked, (see photo above), a SPPD news release says.

The SPPD says marking catalytic converters, the exhaust control device on the underside of vehicles, can deter thieves because scrap yards and recyclers often won't buy them if they have been marked. 

This can help save motorists hundreds to thousands of dollars as stolen catalytic converters can cost $1,000-plus to repair. 

At Saturday's free auto care clinic, police will also offer theft-prevention license plate screws that make it more difficult for someone to steal license plates from vehicles. 

License plates are also a common, easy-to-take item that's typically a crime of opportunity based on necessity. People steal license plates to put on stolen vehicles to evade police or put them on their vehicle to conceal their identity when committing a crime, such as a gas drive-off. 

If you go

The free auto care clinic will be held in the North Lot of Allianz Field Stadium at 400 Snelling Ave. N from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 10.

Registration for the free event, which is open to the public, is encouraged but not required. You can register online here.

SPPD says the auto care clinic will not be held if it's raining, so keep an eye on the department's Facebook and Twitter accounts on Saturday morning in case the event is postponed. 

Thefts of catalytic converters on the rise 

A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device on the underside of a vehicle that breaks down the harmful contaminants in gas exhaust before they can be released into the air.

They're a popular target among thieves because they can lead to a big payday for minimal work — the devices can be snatched within just a few minutes using tools that are sold at a hardware store and then sold to recyclers and scrapyards for $50-$250 each, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says.

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The catalytic converters are valuable because they contain small amounts of precious metals, such as rhodium. And the value of the metals has soared in recent months — the NICB says rhodium was valued at $14,500 per ounce as of December 2020 — leading to a spike in catalytic converter thefts across Minnesota and the U.S., in both rural and urban areas. 

In 2019, there was an average of 282 reported catalytic converter thefts per month in the U.S., NICB says. Last year, there was an average of 1,203 reported thefts per month, with Minnesota being among the five states with the most reported thefts. 

So far this year, 560 catalytic converter thefts have been reported in St. Paul, which is an average of nearly six per day, the SPPD says. 

In Minneapolis, there were 1,474 reported catalytic converter thefts in 2020, up from 207 in 2019, the Pioneer Press said on March 12. So far this year, more than 400 thefts have been reported.

In an effort to curtail the crime in Minnesota, state legislators have introduced a few different bills, including legislation that would restrict the sale of catalytic converters and ban cash sales of the devices, MPR News says.

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