Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith described what seems like a never ending cycle: Drug addicts looking to satiate their addictions turn to theft to find quick cash. Deputies make arrests, thieves are charged and local thefts subside — at least for awhile. Eventually, they climb again. 

Easy targets for burglars is often scrap metal taken from backyards or unlocked sheds and garages. The metals don’t have serial numbers, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to trace. 

Taking  catalytic converters from vehicles is both particularly easy and profitable for the thief. These car parts can be accessed from under the vehicle and only take a minute or two to remove with the proper tools. 

These parts contain precious metals that are very valuable; catalytic converters could typically fetch $5-$800 a piece at a scrap dealer, the most common valued at approximately $150.

Several businesses have created cage-like devices made with strong materials that make cutting out the catalytic converter cumbersome for a thief. However, those devices can cost as much as the converter itself. 

Smith noted that not only is it a very easy theft, it’s also difficult for law enforcement to track. Catalytic converters do not have serial numbers, making it nearly impossible to discern where they came from.

While scrap dealers often ask to see drivers licenses, thieves avoiding retribution easily get past this barrier by asking a friend to bring the parts to the scrap yard in their stead. 

Smith suggested the best way to reduce these kinds of thefts would be to make it more difficult for the thieves to profit this way. Until that happens, Smith suggested vehicle owners do what they can to protect themselves against these types of thefts. He explained most thefts are crimes of opportunity and thieves will likely go after targets that don’t require them to break into a building. Smith suggested keeping vehicles inside if possible. If garage or shed space isn’t available, try to store vehicles out of sight.

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