Repair shops seeing shortage of catalytic converters amid increased thefts in Minnesota

A box of catalytic converters. (FOX 9)

More and more cars in Minnesota are now off the road because of a growing trend in thefts. Rather than stealing cars, some thieves simply stealing valuable metals off of them.

"I had just gotten home and we hear this weird grinding sound," Garret Nasset of St. Paul said. "I just knew that someone was taking his catalytic converter."

Catalytic converters are a part found underneath cars, that break down gas from the engine before it is released from the exhaust. Unfortunately, they’re also a prime target for thieves.

"You bolt something on the bottom of your car that’s worth 12 times as much as gold and you might have a problem," State Sen. John Marty of Roseville says.

A record number of converters have been stolen this year.

"Even if it’s on a big street in the middle of daylight, because it’s underneath the car nobody looks under every car to see if someone’s crawling around underneath and it only takes a minute or two," Marty explained.

Some thieves in the Twin Cities are even getting more creative.

"They are using tow trucks, unmarked tow trucks," Mohamad Ameerally of Madina’s Automotive said. "They will just lift it up with the tow truck and take it off."

All for trace amounts of scarce metals found inside of the converters.

"Pallidium and platinum and rhodium… very valuable metals, and the price of those metals has gone up sharply," Sen. Marty said. "The thief may get $200 or $300 out of it and [the driver is] stuck with the bill that could top $2,000. I’ve heard of people paying as much as $3,000 bucks."

Some drivers have had their cars sidelined for two months, as there is currently a shortage in parts for repairs.

"I’ve talked to people who’ve had two converters stolen off the same car. They had it stolen, they replaced it, stolen again," Sen. Marty said. "And in many cases it’s more than the car's value."

"I mean it’s just getting out of hand," Nasset said.

Senator Marty is proposing legislation to make it illegal to have a used catalytic converter without evidence of lawful ownership. It’d also be illegal for anyone to buy a used catalytic converter, besides scrap metal dealers.

"It’s such a devastating crime to people, a lot of low-income people don’t have a garage. They park on the street, their car is a sitting duck to thieves," Sen. Marty said.

Senator Marty’s bill is still waiting for a hearing, but he hopes to make progress on it in the next few months.

Meanwhile, auto shops are installing tamper-proof protective plates underneath cars to deter thieves, for around $300.