ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Crime victims and law enforcement are encouraged by what appears to be a sharp decline in stolen catalytic converters from vehicles across Minnesota.
Several factors are thought to be behind the drop in crime, including tougher, more restrictive laws as well as a federal crackdown on a large, nationwide catalytic converter theft ring late last year.
"I am like, well, I will just get it fixed and hope it never happens again," one crime victim told FOX 9’s Paul Blume about returning to her Hyundai Sonata hybrid a couple winters ago, only to find thieves had stolen her catalytic converter.
She described a monster inconvenience totaling nearly $2,000 in repairs and weeks waiting on parts.
"How is that even possible? I had no idea," she told Blume. "I really wanted to figure out who did it."
While the woman would have rather just paid the thieves instead of having them do the damage to her exhaust system for the precious metals in the catalytic converter, lawmakers took action to clamp down on the criminal enterprise altogether.
The Legislature passed a package of new laws this year, requiring better record-keeping, background research and training for the scrap metal dealers who typically purchase the catalytic converters. It also became a crime to possess a used, unattached catalytic converter without the proper markings to link it to a vehicle.
"It has been frustrating in the past, when you stop a car that has five converters in it, knowing that it is probably not legit, but without any markings on the converter, we cannot find a victim or prove that they are stolen. So, this (new law) will certainly help," Blaine Police Captain Mark Boerboom told FOX 9.
A Blaine police officer used the new law to slap a misdemeanor ticket on a woman who had an unmarked converter in her car during a traffic stop on the very first day the law was enacted on Aug. 1.
This week Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged Nay Thar with a felony when a Minneapolis police reportedly found 11 catalytic converters in his trunk, as well as, the tools typically used to steal them.
"To know that there's something being done about it is really great," the catalytic converter theft victim told FOX 9.
Statewide BCA data shows there were more than 13,000 reports of stolen auto parts or accessories including catalytic converters in 2021 and 2022.
Year to date, there have only been approximately 4,600 such reports, a significant reduction when extrapolating out the remainder of 2023.
Another reason the experts believe for the downward trend, a drop in pricing and demand for the precious metals typically found in the converter itself.