NewsDenver7 | Investigates

Actions

As catalytic converter thefts continue to rise, frustration mounts

Security video shows theft occurring in less than a minute
Posted: 9:50 PM, Jun 15, 2022
Updated: 2022-06-16 13:32:57-04
Cat converter 1.jpg
Cat converter 2.jpg
Cat converter 3.jpg

LITTLETON, Colo. — It took just 45 seconds for two thieves to cut out the catalytic converter on Steve Jones’ car and make their getaway just before 5 a.m. earlier this year.

Jones’ security cameras on his front door captured the theft and show the ease at which the men got under Jones’ car and cut off the catalytic converter. They aren’t even phased when Jones’ neighbor comes outside and attempts to take a picture.

Security video shows catalytic converter theft occurring in less than a minute

“I couldn’t believe they had the audacity to come up to my driveway even so close to my house,” Jones said. “I just felt really violated.”

Jones’ neighbor told him the suspects pulled out a gun and told the neighbor to go back to his house as they fled the scene.

“These people are dangerous. They are not only stealing your stuff, you could get shot,” Jones said. “This is just bad all around.”

But what Jones found nearly as frustrating was what he felt was a lack of response from the Littleton Police Department.

Jones filed a report and sent the video to police, but he says he hasn’t heard anything from the department.

“They just don’t care,” he said. “This is not a crime that they care about.”

Jones isn’t the only one frustrated, as catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed across the Denver metro area over the past two years, with a record number of thefts across the state.

“I just think the whole thing needs to be escalated,” said Bill Enyart, whose catalytic converter was stolen at an RTD Park-N-Ride station in Boulder. “Not enough is being done.”

Denver7 Investigates has spent months digging into crime data and found that catalytic converter thefts have increased more than 5,000% statewide between 2019 and 2021. Parking garages and parking lots — especially RTD Park-N-Rides — are hotspots for these crimes.

Catalytic converters are part of a car’s exhaust system and are popular among thieves because of the resale value due to the precious metals inside.

Some undercover visits by Denver7 Investigates highlighted that several scrap metal businesses are no longer buying catalytic converters from people off the street, while others will still offer up to a few hundred dollars if the seller provides identification.

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

Law enforcement sources say that current laws in Colorado make it difficult to catch and prosecute thieves.

Earlier this month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed two new laws designed to cut down on catalytic converter thefts. Senate Bill 22-009 creates a new basis for crimes related to catalytic converters. House Bill 22-1217 creates a Catalytic Converter Identification and Theft Prevention Grant Program within the state’s Department of Safety for tracking efforts and to raise awareness of thefts.

Bill sponsors and law enforcement say this is only a first step. Attorney General Phil Weiser said at the bill signing, “We are just getting started and we know we have to do more.”

But for victims like Jones, the frustration remains.

Littleton Police Sgt. Krista Dimock says she can understand Jones’ feelings and believes the department could improve its communication with victims. But even that would not prevent or help solve these crimes, which is something every law enforcement agency in the metro area is struggling with.

“I know officers that have pulled over a truck with the back of the truck full of catalytic converters, and we cannot hold somebody accountable for that crime,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told Denver7 Investigates.

Denver has seen more than 3,500 thefts reported in the city from the start of 2020 through March 2022. Pazen added that he doesn’t feel like the thefts will slow down any time soon.

Jones believes the thieves have no incentive to stop.

“There are no penalties. They’re not going to get caught,” he said. “Nobody is going to try and look for them so why stop doing it.”