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Theft of catalytic converters, critical part of car's exhaust system, on the rise

Catalytic converter
Posted at 10:35 AM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 19:42:35-04

PULASKI (NBC 26) — You lock your car to protect your belongings inside,b ut what some local thieves are actually after is on the outside of your car.

"The thieves, it takes them a matter of minutes to get this part off of the vehicle," said Hunter Micolichek, Officer with the Pulaski Police Department. "And it's almost untraceable.”

Catalytic converter theft is one of the biggest issues the Pulaski Police Department is tackling right now.

“A lot of scrap yards and stuff aren't really asking questions, where people are getting these things," said Micolichek. "So they're just getting them in high volume, and it's hard to figure out who's doing it.”

Catalytic converter

A catalytic converter is a critical part of a car's exhaust system that can cost up to $2,000 to replace. Thieves target it because it contains expensive metals, has a street value of up to $200 and removal can take less than a minute, said Chris Vengrowsky, co-owner of Exhaust Pros Automotive Repair Center.

"It's part of emissions law," he said. "Catalytic converter is part of the emission system, all vehicles have them. I mean, we've had them since probably 1978. So, it also is a huge filter for the exhaust system and helps keep the vehicles quieter.”

They’re very valuable, said Vengrowsky.

“It's the precious metals," he said. "The iridium, platinum, that is built up into that converter assembly. Then the end user, the companies that are melting it down and reusing that those materials for other things, is where the real money's at.”

Although Pulaski has had a handful of converter thefts, it’s not just a problem in one village.

“I've had customers from as far as Milwaukee, that were in town, or have had numerous ones cut off," said Vengrowsky. "In bigger cities it's happening a lot more. I just dealt with one of my dealers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and he's calling it an epidemic. They're getting cut off daily.”

Thieves have mainly been targeting trucks or cars that are more raised so they can easily get underneath them. To protect your catalytic converter, officers recommend parking in a garage if you can or in a well-lit place. They also suggest getting a security camera. You can even engrave your VIN number into your catalytic converter, install a catalytic converter protection device or install a car alarm to set off when it detects vibration.

“A security camera’s like, $100 or so," said Micolichek. "Compared to possibly a $2,000 fix, so it's worth it in our mind.”

The Village of Pulaski is asking for the public's assistance to help identify a suspect related to these incidents. If you have any information that may help in these cases, contact Officer Betzner by email at