Thieves Steal Catalytic Converters By The Hundreds, Leading To Costly Repairs

Repairs can range from $1,000 to $4,000 if your vehicle is targeted

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — An explosion of catalytic converter thefts in the Valley has kept police busy and vehicle owners rushing to repair shops.

According to Metro Police, 784 thefts have been reported this year as of April 8 – well above the rate of last year, when 425 thefts were reported.

Repair shops have a parade of customers every day and there are no signs that thefts will stop any time soon. Thieves steal the parts by crawling under cars and sawing off catalytic converters to sell them to recyclers, who pay big bucks for some brands that contain precious metals – jewelry-store-grade platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Repairs can range from $1,000 to $4,000 if more than one catalytic converter is stolen, according to a manager at a North Las Vegas repair shop.

The Toyota Prius is among the most targeted vehicles, according to repair shops. Others are the Toyota Sequoia, Honda CRV, Honda Element and Hyundai Tucson. But ultimately, it’s any vehicle with enough room to crawl under.

Dan DeMello, who runs Best Muffler Shop near Fremont Street and Eastern Avenue, said he sees three to five customers every day who need help – and five to 10 on a busy day.

In North Las Vegas, two nearby stores near Ann Road and Simmons Street are also seeing an increase in thefts. Mark Almazan of AA Auto Care said the shop sees eight to nine jobs a week, and JoJo Crickon of Dynamic Exhaust Fabrication says he does about 20 jobs each month.

Metro police have made arrests, but only 37 of the 784 theft cases have been solved so far.

Shop owners say the only real defense is to be aware of what’s going on around you. There are products on the market to stop thieves, but all they can do is slow down thieves. Installing plates to cover the catalytic converters doesn’t help much because they can be cut by the same tools used to steal the part in the first place.

The stories range from a catalytic converter being stolen from an RV while someone was sleeping inside to a case in which the ‘cat’, as they are commonly known, was repeatedly stolen from the same vehicle .

“We did a Prius job three times with all OEM parts. It’s amazing,” DeMello of Best Muffler said. “Their insurance paid, they got the car fixed. Even with an anti-theft device there, one of the cat shields, they always cut it, they always took the thing, and it happened three times in total

DeMello said some of the best products use cables that can’t be cut by saws, but nothing stops thieves. He’s worked with businesses that have been hit by thieves stealing cats in clusters, hitting parking lots overnight.

“A fence doesn’t matter, it seems. We see them on video jumping the fence, looking at the camera, waving and doing it anyway,” DeMello said.

AA Auto Care director Hank Villa said thieves can’t make a lot of money stealing aftermarket catalytic converters. But not all cars can use them. They are a key part of the emissions system and your check engine light will come on if they do not match your car. That means you probably won’t pass the inspection.

Villa also said manifold-mountable catalytic converters are much harder for thieves to reach.

JoJo Crickon of Dynamic Exhaust Fabrication says vehicle identification numbers on catalytic converters could help stop thefts. (Greg Haas/8NewsNow)

Crickon of Dynamic Exhaust Fabrication said it is considering offering to etch vehicle identification numbers (VIN) on catalytic converters as a service to customers. He thinks having VINs on the original equipment would go a long way to stopping the thefts.

DeMello echoed this, saying VINs on converters would solve the problem by making flights traceable and holding recyclers accountable.

About Dwight E. McCray

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