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Catalytic converters were stolen last week from a half dozen vehicles in Summit County

Felix Mizioznikov - stock.adobe.

There has been a string of catalytic converter thefts in Summit County this past week.

Summit County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Andrew Wright said thieves are efficient when they crawl under a vehicle to cut out a catalytic converter. They can do it with a power tool in a few minutes. They aim to resell the metals found in the car part to a third-party metal reseller.

“You know, to the people, the thieves that are taking these could find value in them because of the metal, the type of metal used in the catalytic converters themselves. They try to go in and recycle those and get the money.”

Wright said the resale of metals is not very regulated but thinks maybe that will change because it is happening more frequently all over the country. He said catalytic converter theft has been extreme lately, and the best way to prevent it is to keep vehicles in a garage.

“It seems our recent cases have been at businesses and one over here at the Habitat for Humanity close to our office. It takes a lot of guts for someone to do that. And then, over at the the Business Park Loop, not too far from our office. It's also in a business district where people aren't frequenting those businesses a lot on the weekends because many of them are closed.”

Wright said it costs a lot more to fix the vehicle than the value of the materials found in a converter. Charges for stealing a catalytic converter range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the extent of damage to the vehicle.

A catalytic converter is an emission control device required by the Environmental Protection Agency. It coverts the toxic gases and pollutants found in the gas exhaust into less harmful pollutants. Precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium are used in the devices, and the resale price can be very high depending on the metals marketplace.

“This past year, police agencies down along the Wasatch Front have uncovered storage sheds and buildings where these have been storing large amounts of catalytic converters. Putting it back on a vehicle causes a lot of damage, so you have to go to a mechanic that can replace the catalytic converter and whatever exhaust pipes and stuff connects to it.”

According to some websites, one catalytic converter could be worth $300 at a scrapyard. Wright said they could fetch from $100 to $600 depending on the amount of precious metals used to make the device.

Updated: April 27, 2022 at 2:16 PM MDT
On Monday, April 26, the Summit County Sheriff's office received a complaint that two vehicles belonging to Basin Recreation had catalytic converters stolen. Investigators suspect it is part of the rash of thefts over the weekend. The report indicates that the catalytic converters were cut out between April 22 and 26. Cameras were located in the area, and investigators will follow up with surveillance and possible suspect identification.
KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.