Mar 23, 2021 - News

Twin Cities hit hard by spike in catalytic converter thefts

A catalytic converter

This is what a catalytic converter looks like. Photo: Ina Fassbender/picture alliance via Getty Images

A spike in catalytic converter thefts continues to vex Twin Cities car owners.

The big picture: Rising demand for the precious metals used in the exhaust emission control device has made the car part a hot commodity on the black market.

The #LocalAngle: As you've probably sensed from Nextdoor posts or neighborly complaints, Minnesota has been hit particularly hard.

  • Reports of swiped parts are already double what they were this time last year in St. Paul and up 38% in Minneapolis, The Pioneer Press reports.
  • Last year, Minneapolis logged 1,474 catalytic converter thefts, up from 207 in 2019.

Why it matters: The part is expensive to replace — it can cost more than $1,000. Even if your insurance covers it, deductible limits mean you'll probably pay out of pocket.

Why they're a hot target: Thieves can sever the part from beneath your car in a matter of minutes and sell it on the black market for serious cash.

  • "Even if [there’s] just a small amount of metal in a catalytic converter, it's just worth so much per ounce," University of Minnesota material science professor Paul Dauenhauer told MPR News.

But because thieves typically strike quickly and in the dead of night, picking cars parked in alleys and on empty streets, it's a tough crime to fight.

How to know if you've been hit: You'll hear a loud noise when you start the engine.

  • "It sounded like a race car," state Sen. Karin Housley, whose truck was stripped last year, told the Pioneer Press.
  • The St. Mary's Point Republican has introduced one of several bills seeking tougher penalties to crack down on the crime.

What you can do: Park your car in a garage or a well-lit area to deter would-be criminals from targeting your ride.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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