MANDAN, ND (KXNET) — The Mandan Police Department reports a surge recently in thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles in the area.

“Please make sure to check your vehicles often and contact law enforcement if you feel like someone has tampered with your vehicle,” the police note in a Facebook post. “Mandan Tire and Northwest Tire in Mandan are offering FREE VIN engraving into the catalytic converter. Contact either business and request an appointment. Having the engravement done to your vehicle will assist law enforcement when investigating catalytic converter thefts.”

Catalytic converter thefts have been a persistent problem for several years across the county and in North Dakota. Clusters of thefts have been reported in western North Dakota, particularly the Minot, Berthold, Bismarck and Mandan areas.

Earlier this year, five people were arrested for catalytic converter thefts in Ward County dating back to 2021.

Numerous tire and automotive shops offer free engraving of VINs, or vehicle identification numbers, onto the catalytic converters, making it easy to identify stolen converters.

Why steal this particular part of a vehicle? Inside a catalytic converter are three valuable metals: Platinum, rhodium and palladium. Those who steal catalytic converters try to sell them once they remove the part from the car. They can be sold for up to $150, depending on the size of the converter.

They are also easy to steal. Authorities say thieves can cut out a converter from a vehicle and disappear within 5 to 10 minutes.