“It’s not hard to tell when they go missing, is it?” Gary Van Ryzin of World Auto Repair called out as he cranked a van up one of his lifts.
Sometime on Tuesday night, June 8, People Reaching Out to People, Eden Prairie’s food shelf on Martin Drive, became the latest loss in a rising wave of catalytic converter thefts.
“Our volunteers came in first thing Wednesday to take the van out to pick up donations from groceries,” said Paul Harcey, Food Shelf Coordinator for PROP. “The van was extremely loud and undriveable (see EPLN video). The folks at World Auto were able to wiggle us in, but our insurer is looking at a big bill.”
World Auto owner Kris Ichimura said the cost of replacing a stolen cat converter averages $1500-$2000. The PROP repair cost much more, because thieves damaged oxygen sensors on the converter. PROP couldn’t get credit for an old “core” that could be remanufactured, because the core had been stolen.
Eden Prairie Police Department records show 58 cat converter thefts so far in 2021, including 9 in the first 10 days of June. Thefts year to date already exceed 2020’s total of 55.
Repair shops see evidence of organized crime. “The suppliers that sell us replacement cats say that they’ll see orders light up from repair shops in specific parts of the Cities,” said Van Ryzin. “Thieves rip through an area like a hurricane.”
Cars left parked overnight in quiet commercial lots are often targeted. “The clean cuts on the PROP van’s pipes indicate the thief used a sharp, professional saw,” said Ichimura. “We estimate they can be in and out in less than two minutes. We think cover plates are the best way to deter these thefts.”
Legislators hold out hope for bill addressing the issue
Several bills to document a chain of custody between scrap metal recyclers, auto parts distributors, and repair shops died in the regular session of the Legislature. EPLN covered these proposals previously, including bills sponsored by Senator Steve Cwodzinski (D – Eden Prairie) and Senator Karin Housley (R – Stillwater).
Housley, who was personally victimized by cat thieves last year, hasn’t given up hope. “That is such upsetting news about PROP’s vehicle,” said Housley. “Catalytic converter thefts have affected Minnesotans all over the state because they are easy to steal quickly and can be resold for so much money. When a reseller buys the item, there’s no real way for them to determine if the part has been stolen or not.”
A new state pilot program to fund etching catalytic converters with vehicle identification numbers is part of budgetary negotiations to craft a final bill for the upcoming special session, currently scheduled for a June 14 start.
“With this new program, at least Minnesotans have the option of protecting their catalytic converters at no personal cost,” noted Housley. “If this pilot program is far-reaching enough, then catalytic converters become harder to grab, and the market for them is reduced.
Housley expressed hope that the program would be enough to deter potential thieves and that the bill would move forward. “It has a ton of support in both the Senate and the House. I’m anticipating it making it into the final bill, because everyone understands its importance.”