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Auto part theft is on the rise in Southern Arizona

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 10:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It only takes a minute for thieves to steal the catalytic converter from your car and it could end up costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Ken Riddle, owner of Exhaust Works says they see at least six customers weekly who come in needing a catalytic converter because theirs has been stolen or vandalized.

A catalytic converter is a filter for your exhaust system. They come in different shapes and sizes, all working to emit less pollution in the air. You might not realize the part is missing just by looking at your car, but...

“As soon as you start your car, the noise level is immense. You can definitely tell, as soon as you start your car it’s ten times louder than what it would normally be,” Riddle says.

The Marana Police Department tells us catalytic converter theft has been a problem over the last year, likely because of the pandemic, but they’ve seen a surge within the last few months.

Sergeant Abel Samano says, “Without interfering with the investigation, I can’t give an exact number, but it’s been quite a bit.”

Thieves aren’t necessarily looking to sell the converters themselves, but rather what’s inside.

“What we know, is that inside the catalytic converter, there’s actually precious metals. Some of those metals, the prices have increased recently and that’s possibly why we’re seeing an uptick in the theft of catalytic converters. They can sell the actual metals themselves without having to sell the catalytic converters. And I have not heard anything about anyone buying catalytic converters because there is a state statute that prohibits the buying of catalytic converters,” Sgt. Samano says.

To get even an ounce of these precious metals, it would take the theft of several catalytic converters.

Riddle says, ”The theft rate to the damage you’re causing is terrible.”

The converters may be easy to take, but you don’t get as much money for them as people may think. However, to repair or replace a catalytic converter it’s anywhere from $600 to $3,000 for a diesel.

Riddle says vehicles that are higher off the ground are an easier target for thieves. If your car is low to the ground, thieves will see it as a deterrent. There are some things you can do that may help protect your car.

”Work with your mechanic. You can have your catalytic converter etched with your VIN on it, so that helps us track them. You can also take it to your mechanic and ask them to weld the catalytic converter to the frame of the body. That prevents it from just dropping down because essentially, they cut a few pieces and the thing falls out. So to make it more difficult, you can weld that part to the body of the vehicle,” Sgt. Samano recommends.

Marana Police say there is an ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of these crimes. If you have any information on catalytic converter thefts, or if your converter is stolen, you’re asked to call the Marana Police Department at 520-382-2000.

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