Northwest Arkansas deals with catalytic converter thefts


A Rogers used car dealer reported to police last week that catalytic converters had been stolen from three of its vehicles – a local occurrence of a problem that has escalated nationally in recent years. years.

An analysis by BeenVerified, a public data company, found that catalytic converter thefts in 2021 more than quadrupled from 2020.

Catalytic converter thefts continue to increase in 2022. In the first four months, BeenVerified estimates nearly 26,000 thefts nationwide, a 33% year-over-year increase.

Arkansas had 19 reported catalytic converter thefts in 2019, 58 in 2020 and 275 in 2021, according to BeenVerified.

A catalytic converter is an Environmental Protection Agency approved exhaust emission control device, usually located under the vehicle as part of the exhaust system. Thieves steal catalytic converters from all types of automobiles for their precious metals. Specifically, hybrid and low-emission vehicles contain more precious metals in their converters and some larger vehicles have multiple catalytic converters, making them high-value targets, according to a June 2021 press release from the prosecutor’s office. General of Arkansas, Leslie Rutledge.

Rutledge issued the warning last year that catalytic converter thefts were on the rise and advised people how to protect their automobiles from thieves.

“These criminals are stealing catalytic converters that will end up costing thousands of dollars to fix,” Rutledge said. “I want the Arkansans to know the signs ahead of time so they can protect themselves.”

The catalytic converter is the most important pollution control device on a vehicle, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the EPA, catalytic converters were installed on most 1975 and newer passenger cars and light-duty pickup trucks by manufacturers to reduce exhaust emissions and allow the vehicles to meet federal standards.

Thieves will earn $50 to $875 per converter depending on vehicle type and precious metal content, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

Precious metals in a converter include rhodium, platinum and palladium, according to Todd Foreman, director of Law Enforcement Outreach for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

Cameron Selvey, service writer at the University of Automobiles and Tires in Fayetteville, said extracting valuable materials is a process. A legitimate coin buyer will break down a converter and then send it to a company to determine the value of precious metals.

Thieves probably aren’t doing the hard work, Selvey said. Some might be able to get a fraction of the metals, he said.

Converter theft began to increase across the country in early 2021, Foreman said.

A thief with a power saw can make two simple cuts and have a converter unplugged from a vehicle in less than a minute, Foreman said.

Shane Lyttle, owner of JNS Auto Repair in Siloam Springs, said telltale signs of a catalytic converter theft include the “check engine” light may come on or the vehicle will run very loud.

Selvey likened the sound to noise on a dirt or race track.

“You’ll wake up the neighborhood for sure,” he said.

A vehicle owner has a few options when replacing the stolen converter, Lyttle said. The first is to get a replacement from a dealership. It can cost anywhere from $500 to over $1,000, he said. The other option is a universal catalytic converter which is welded in place. It can cost between $150 and $200, he said. It’s just the price of the part.

Bentonville Police Public Information Officer Adam McInnis said thefts of catalytic converters have occurred from hotels and public parking lots in the city, but authorities have not seen a significant increase. of this type of theft in recent months.

“It’s a quick way to make money to fuel addiction or whatever their vice is,” he said.

Keith Foster, spokesman for the Rogers Police Department, said similar incidents seem to be happening in waves.

“We’ll take several at a time and then it’ll die down to resume,” he said.

Capt. Gary Crain of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Police Department, said the department handled 23 stolen converter cases in 2021 and had eight cases so far this year. Crain says it’s hard to catch people stealing converters.

“The time it takes to steal the catalytic converter is a minute or two and the thief is gone,” he said. “Little or no evidence is left at the scene.”

Stolen catalytic converters cannot be associated with a certain vehicle or victim if they are not etched or otherwise identified by the owners of the vehicle, Crain said. He encouraged people to engrave or otherwise mark their catalytic converters for identification. He also advised people to avoid parking in isolated areas.

“Contact your service representative to see if the catalytic converter can be attached to the vehicle to make it more difficult to steal,” Crain said.

Foster urged people to keep their cars locked and if they have access to indoor storage, use it. Motion lights and cameras could help identify thieves, he said.

Peter Taber, 40, of Colcord, Okla., was arrested last July for stealing catalytic converters from six vehicles at the Siloam Collision Center in Siloam Springs, according to court documents. The converters were valued at $600 each, according to a probable cause affidavit.

A West Siloam Springs police office arrested Taber and found him in possession of two catalytic converters in a suitcase, according to the affidavit.

Taber pleaded guilty in January to commercial burglary and theft of property. He was placed on state supervised probation for five years and ordered to pay $3,600 to the collision center.

Bryan Sexton, Benton County’s chief assistant prosecutor, said depending on the case, the theft of a catalytic converter could be prosecuted as theft for the part itself or as first-degree criminal mischief for damage to the car or both.

Considering the cost of the part and repair work, depending on the damage done to the vehicle, a criminal case could easily reach a felony damages amount, Sexton said.

A catalytic converter, seen here Wednesday, June 22, 2022, reduces toxic emissions found in vehicle exhaust. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Photo A catalytic converter, seen here Wednesday, June 22, 2022 on a Lexus RX350 being serviced at Straightline Automotive in Centerton, reduces toxic emissions found in vehicle exhaust. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

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