COLORADO SPRINGS — It's a costly crime that could even total your vehicle because of how expensive it is to get a proper repair. News5 takes a deep dive into catalytic converter thefts and why it's a crime that could happen to any us who drive.
In just a matter of minutes a crook with a saw can crawl under your car and cut out the catalytic converter. It's already happened hundreds of times this year in the Pikes Peak Region. Criminals then look to sell the valuable part, leaving your vehicle in need of a costly repair.
Earlier this month we showed you one of these crimes caught on camera as a suspect with a saw cut out the catalytic converter of a work truck parked at a construction company in Colorado Springs.
"Each one of these is costing people anywhere from two to five thousand dollars," said Colorado Springs Police Department Detective Dennis Mallett.
Detective Mallet has investigated crimes like this for the last decade and says catalytic converter theft is only getting worse.
"The metals that are in it are rare and it's driving up the price in the market, so thieves have figured that out and they know how to steal it quickly," said Mallett.
The crime stats show the exponential increase in catalytic converter theft investigations for CSPD. Back in 2019 there were just 3, in 2020 it jumped to 106, and this year investigators say there are now more than 300 cases so far.
Even with these numbers, investigators say catalytic converter thefts are some of the most under reported crimes.
"Based on some of the arrests that I've made this year alone I believe they are very under reported. I've had two suspects admit to stealing more than 1,000 of them," said Mallett.
At Bud's Muffler in Colorado Springs technicians are seeing catalytic converter theft victims stream through their doors looking for repairs. Owner Jeff Goodwin says sometimes he has to deliver bad news.
"I mean, it's totaled some vehicles. Since the first of the year catalytic converters have tripled in value," said Goodwin.
Fed up with the crime spree, Bud's Muffler decided to be proactive offering a free service to protect costumers and help investigators.
"We are painting catalytic converters with a flame resistant paint. What it does is it marks the cat so that if someone is caught with one of these painted cats the police know the catalytic converter is stolen. Then they can look at that cat and we engrave the VIN and tag number on the cat so they can trace it back to who it was stolen from," said Goodwin.
Investigators say even if you aren't a car expert you'll probably know if you've been a victim of one of these thefts.
"You are going to notice pretty quickly because once you start your car there's a big chunk missing out of your exhaust system, so it's going to be a lot louder," said Mallett.
The experts making these repairs say lawmakers need to take a look at this issue and try to hold people accountable who are buying the stolen catalytic converters, fueling the problem.
"I don't know if it's salvage yards, or whatever, but if you're buying cats you have to have paperwork on it I think that would slow some things down," said Goodwin.
Investigators want us to remember, these are loud crimes, using a saw typically in the overnight hours. Surveillance video and Crime Stoppers tips make a big difference in solving these crimes.
You can always remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP.