(ABC4) – Catalytic converters have long been a target for thieves, but a number of communities across the country have seen an uptick in thefts recently. Utah is no exception.
A multi-jurisdiction sting operation has led to the arrest of three people, 13 scrap metal dealers audited, 13 criminal violations issued, and over 120 catalytic converters being confiscated.
Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise in response to the market value of the precious metals inside, according to the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The metals rhodium, palladium, and platinum are seeking unprecedented prices on the black market.
In Utah alone, authorities say catalytic converter theft from automobiles has risen 595% since 2018.
While valuable, catalytic converters are a crucial part of a vehicle’s emission system, with costs to replace one averaging $1,800.
Although authorities say they are aware of these thefts, investigating the crimes has been difficult due to a lack of evidence at the scene.
Thieves reportedly target vehicles parked on the roadway overnight, or in parking lots where vehicles are unattended. Those thieves are reportedly averaging $300 to $400 per stolen catalytic converter.
In March, the Crime Against Statewide Economy (CASE) Task started working with agencies to begin a large, undercover operation targeting scrap metal dealers, recyclers, and individuals transacting stolen catalytic converters online.
The task force found some legitimate scrap metal dealers and recyclers were not in compliance with existing state laws regarding the purchasing of suspicious metals. Investigators also found transactions between sellers and buyers online were taking place in the parking lots of strip malls and shopping centers.
Authorities from the Department of Public Safety State Bureau/Investigations, Sandy Police, Unified Police, West Jordan Police, and West Valley City Police were involved in the investigation.
Recently, a single bust in California unveiled over 300 apparently stolen catalytic converters in a single bust at a storage facility in California’s Marin County, ABC4 affiliate KRON reports. In April, two vans used for “critical lifesaving work” by Best Friends Animal Society fell out of commission after their catalytic converters were stolen.