Uptick in catalytic converter theft prompts new penalties for buyers

Local News

Theft of catalytic converters is increasing across the country, and right here in North Dakota. The car parts reduce pollution that comes from the engine’s exhaust.

Owner and Manager of Scotti Muffler and Auto Repair Gordon Ripplinger points to the converters on the underside of a suspended car.

“Right here, there’s one on this side, and one on this side,” Ripplinger said.

But when they’re sawed out and sold to scrapyards, they can be worth upwards of $1,000.

“The damage to the vehicle can be quite extensive,” Burleigh County Investigations Sgt. Aaron Silbernagel said.

That’s because of the precious metals within the car part that have recently gone up in value.

“Platinum, palladium, rhodium, things like that — high dollar precious metals that don’t break down when they get real hot. That’s what they’re after,” Ripplinger said.

That’s spurred a surge in the thefts of these valuable car parts nationwide and in North Dakota, making Burleigh County investigators take a look.

“We’ve seen a definite spike in this in definitely the past year, year and a half,” Silbernagel said.

They have few identifying features, making them difficult to track down. When investigators recover a converter, Silbernagel says it’s a tedious process to identify the converter’s make and what vehicle it would be used on.

“A lot of times, these don’t get reported right away. We’ve seen an uptick in people hitting rural areas and older farmsteads where there’s vehicles parked around,” Silbernagel said.

Ripplinger says he’s seen an uptick in replacing converters over the past few months.

“In December, I bet we’ve seen 20 of them, people said they were stolen. Some of them are probably the bigger trucks — easier to get under,” Ripplinger said.

He says your car would be OK to drive without one for a short trip, but it would be noisy.

The uptick in theft has prompted lawmakers to take action. Senate Bill 2242, which passed unanimously, would penalize those who buy the converters without confirming proof of ownership, like a car title for example.

“It is a challenge in this issue when you’re going after the thief, you want to target the thief, but the only way to do that is to target the businesses that are buying them from the thief,” Sen. Jordan Kannianen said.

Both Ripplinger and Silbernagel say they support the bill.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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