“You feel very violated” — Eagan Police and state lawmaker pushing back against catalytic converter thefts

Eagan Police say they’re tracking 256 converter thefts so far this year — more than double the 112 thefts in all of 2020. 

St. Paul Police say six of the devices are stolen there every day. 

“You feel very violated, that someone would dare do that to you as a resident,” says Anna-Maria Bistodeau, who lives in St. Paul.  

She says it’s happened to her family twice: once last spring and again, in July. The thieves, she says, came to her street overnight and snatched the converters from her and her husband’s cars, parked outside their house. 

Bistodeau says neighbors alerted them about the thefts and possibly scared the thieves off. 

“The same residence, same spot behind our garage with a motion light,” she recalls. “So we went out and their jack was still under my car. The car was still propped up, but the catalytic converter was gone.”

We asked State Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville) about why so many people are stealing converters. 

“It’s the value,” he says. “It’s the palladium, the platinum, the precious metals in these things are so great.”

Marty says the converter’s metallic coating has up to twenty times the value of gold. He adds those precious metals are selling at up to $26,000 an ounce. 

“You hold something more precious than gold on the bottom of your car and you don’t think you’re going to have a theft problem? Well, we do,” Marty declares. “They’re small metal amounts, but they’re in the catalytic converter and the thieves have figured out they can quickly cut them off and sell them for scrap metal.” 

Police say thieves, using a jack and a saw, can work quickly, removing the converters and selling them to a scrap metal dealer for $500 apiece. 

“It’s so quick,” Machtemes says. “They can be in and out, under the vehicle in minutes. Two cuts, they get the catalytic converter and they’re gone.”

Marty is drafting legislation making it a crime to possess a used, unattached converter if it’s not marked with the vehicle identification number of the car it was taken from. 

Under his proposal, cash sales would be banned, so there would be a paper trail for law enforcement to follow. The bill would also call for converters to be sold only to licensed scrap dealers. 

“So if you’re taking it off of a car, if you’re a muffler dealer who’s doing work on it, or a scrap dealer junking the car, you just put the VIN number on it at the time you take it off,” Marty explains. 

Police say if your converter is stolen, you’ll hear a loud roaring noise coming from beneath your car. 

Experts say replacement parts are not cheap — up to $4000 — and that finding them can take five to six weeks. 

Machtemes says the spray painting clinic is making a difference for those choosing to have their devices marked. 

“So far, we’ve been spraying the catalytic converters, and there’s been zero thefts,” he says. “It’s been effective so far.” 

Bistodeau says she came to have her converters marked and she’s been discussing the idea of adding surveillance cameras to her property. 

“We do have a motion light, but I think it gave them more light to work by,” she says. 

And the new markings, will they work?

“I’m certainly hoping so,” Bistodeau says. 

 

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