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SE MN sees increase in catalytic converter thefts

11 thefts reported in Austin since June 2020

An increase in metal prices has resulted in an increase in catalytic converter thefts in Southeast Minnesota. While many of the incidents have occured in Rochester, vehicles in Austin have also been targeted.

“The Austin Police Department has taken six catalytic converter thefts to date in 2021,” said Austin Police Det. Dustin Hicks. “In at least one of those reports, converters were stolen from multiple vehicles in one location. The APD has taken a total of 11 reports in the past year, with the first report being in June of 2020. The thefts have occurred in all four quadrants of the city, with no obvious sign of a particular target area.”

Catalytic converters often contain precious metals, such as platinum and palladium. According to the Monex Precious Metals index, platinum is currently worth about $1,160 per ounce, while palladium is almost as much as $2,600 per ounce. Scrap metal dealers like to purchase catalytic converters for their precious metals.

Hicks said that thieves use saws to remove the converters.

“The converters have mostly, if not all, been cut off with some type of saw,” he said. “Broken saw blades suspected of being used in the removal of the converters have been recovered from at least one scene. The blade(s) appear to be from a reciprocating, or ‘sawzall’ type saw.”

The thefts are still under investigation and police do not have enough information to determine if the thefts are being carried out by one individual or multiple people.

“Through interagency communication, it is believed that there are groups and individuals that travel throughout the state stealing catalytic converters,” Hicks said. “The APD is working with other local agencies and local scrap yards to identify individuals of interest and bring an end to these thefts.”

In the meantime, Hicks advised that residents take the following steps to avoid catalytic converter theft:

• Park your vehicle in a secure garage whenever possible.

• If no garage is accessible, park your vehicle in a well-lit area.

• Install motion activated lights and/or a video surveillance system.

• Park as close to a residence or building entrance as possible.

• Protective clamps or straps can be installed around catalytic converters, creating a protective barrier.