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Catalytic converter thefts: What cars are being targeted, where it's happening, & how to protect yourself

Posted: 1:15 PM, Apr 04, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-05 16:42:43-04
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DENVER — As catalytic converter thefts spike in Colorado and across the country, Denver7 Investigates is taking an in-depth look at where most of the thefts are happening, why catalytic converters are being targeted, and some of the areas along the Front Range that are seeing the highest number of thefts.

The catalytic converters are key parts of vehicles' emissions systems. They contain expensive precious metals which help turn some of the most noxious pollutants into cleaner emissions. And if you've ever had to replace yours because it was no longer working, or because it had been stolen, you know that they aren't cheap to fix or replace.

But thieves are sometimes making hundreds of dollars selling stolen catalytic converters to scrapyards and others, Denver7 Investigates found, which is making the illegal operations thousands of dollars because of the high volume of converters that can be stolen in almost no time at all.

In this Denver7 360 In-Depth report, we'll tell you about:

  • The increasing number of thefts in Denver and Boulder over the past two years.
  • The areas where thieves seem to be targeting the most vehicles.
  • What vehicles are targeted the most in these areas
  • Ways to try to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen and to keep yourself safe if thieves target you.

Denver7 Investigates' Tony Kovaleski pulled and analyzed data from Denver and Boulder that showed nearly 4,000 catalytic converters were stolen of vehicles in the two cities since the beginning of 2020 — though 3,589 of them were stolen from Denver.

And the number of thefts has risen sharply over the past year, as 79% of the converters stolen out of Denver were taken in 2021.

Where are thieves targeting the most vehicles? It shouldn't a surprise, but it's happening at parking lots where people leave their cars for an extended period.

In Boulder, more than a quarter of the city’s 339 reported catalytic converter thefts took place at the Table Mesa RTD Park-N-Ride. In Denver, three of the top four catalytic converter theft hotspots are also at RTD Park-N-Rides. The fourth hotspot in the Mile High City? Denver International Airport.

It's not just RTD Park-N-Rides and the DIA where these car parts are being taken by thieves, though. Small car dealerships are also struggling as they try to make ends meet.

At this point you may be wondering: Is my car safe from these thieves? If you own a Honda, you may want to be extra careful where you leave your car, as data shows they were at the top of the list for catalytic converter thefts, with 1,145 stolen over the past two years. Toyotas, Fords, Jeeps and Chevys made the Top 5 on the list.

To view the infographics and data below fullscreen, click this link.

So what can you do to protect your vehicle and yourself from these thieves?

Denver police recently revealed they're seeing a pattern of catalytic converter thieves using armed lookouts while the emissions devices are being stolen and warned people not to engage with the thieves, as they've logged around 135 reports of people showing a firearm or pointing one at someone during a catalytic converter theft over the past three years.

Here's what they suggest to protect your vehicle and deter thieves: Have your local police department or auto shop engrave your VIN number onto your catalytic converter or put cages around it.

People can also have the bolts that hold catalytic converters in place welded to further deter thieves.


What else is being done? The automotive industry is banding together to push for legislation to fix the issue.

Senate Bill 22-009 in the Colorado legislature seeks to re-allow the sale and instillation of aftermarket catalytic converters in cars registered in the state. That practice was banned in 2018 under a new set of transportation regulations that sought to decrease emissions.

Critics of the bill say that re-allowing aftermarket catalytic converters will allow emissions to increase, but advocates of the bill say it is necessary to stop these thefts.

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.