Catalytic converter thefts soaring in Twin Cities suburbs – Star Tribune
At the direction of hotel staff, the Olmscheid family parked their Kia Sportage in a back lot of the Country Inn and Suites in Eagan and took a shuttle to the airport to start their vacation.
When they returned from their trip and started their vehicle, the family immediately knew something was drastically wrong.
“It was embarrassingly loud,” said Allison Olmscheid, of Sartell, Minn. Her husband looked under their car and saw two saw marks and no catalytic converter. “We never thought it would happen. This actually does happen. We are part of the numbers.”
No longer strictly a big city problem, catalytic converter theft has become widespread in the suburbs, too. A Star Tribune analysis of crime statistics from 23 Twin Cities suburbs shows catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed — from 300 in 2019 to more than 2,300 last year.
The sharp increase prompted the National Insurance Crime Bureau to name the Twin Cities metro area as the riskiest place in the country for such thefts. And the trend has shown no signs of slowing down, said Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.
“The numbers are actually still increasing so that the 2022 numbers are on pace to eclipse the 2021 numbers, which were much higher than 2019 and 2020,” he said.
Maplewood, Eagan, Bloomington and West St. Paul are among the suburbs that have seen so many catalytic converter thefts in recent years that they now list them as a separate crime statistic instead of lumping them in with other cases of stolen auto parts.
The Star Tribune requested five years of crime statistics from about 50 suburban law enforcement agencies, of which about two dozen provided specific catalytic converter theft numbers.
Maplewood had the most thefts in the metro area last year, with 422, according to data collected by the Star Tribune. On a per-capita basis, that makes the problem even worse than in St. Paul, with 1,877 thefts, or Minneapolis, with about 1,560.
Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, which remove the worst of a vehicle’s toxic pollutants, Their rising value has made the metals more valuable than gold — literally — and put the devices at the center of a Twin Cities crime wave, said Mikael Garland with the St. Louis Park Police Department.
It’s an easy crime to commit, too, Garland added, noting thieves can slide under a vehicle undetected and with a small battery-powered saw remove the part in minutes. Once in hand, thieves can sell the converters to scrap yards that pay up to $1,000 apiece, or hawk them on Facebook marketplace and other websites featuring used car parts for possibly even more, with little worry of getting caught.
“There does not exist any type of monitoring or tracking of the sale of these items like there is for other metal sales,” Garland said.
Two years ago, the St. Paul City Council passed an ordinance making it illegal for a person or business — other than a legitimate auto repair garage — to buy or sell a detached catalytic converter. But there are few laws to dissuade thieves.
Rules such as St. Paul’s have done little to slow the thefts, said Brian Arthur of Converter King, a …….