AURORA | Aurora police are encouraging residents to gird their automotive loins as catalytic converter thefts continue to skyrocket in the city.
There were 269 reported catalytic converter thefts in Aurora reported through the middle of June, according to statistics provided to the Sentinel. That’s a nearly 300% increase from the 68 such thefts reported in all of 2020.
In all of 2019, only eight catalytic converters were reported stolen in Aurora.
Denver and a slew of other Front Range municipalities have experienced similar upticks, The Colorado Sun reported.
Officials pointed to a demand for the valuable metals inside the emission-capping devices and the pandemic as possible reasons for the increases.
“The precious metals inside of them, and quickness of how the thefts can occur, are big reasons why we are probably seeing an uptick in catalytic converter thefts,” Agent Matt Longshore, spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department wrote in an email. “ … As we have seen with COVID shutdowns, more vehicles are being parked for longer periods of time (working remotely, not working at all, etc.) and are reasons a car would sit idle longer. We are encouraging our community to report suspicious incidents to the police.”
Overall car thefts were up more than 100% in Aurora when comparing the first five months of the year to the same time last year. Through the end of May, there were nearly the same number of reported car thefts in the city as there were in all of 2019, data show.
Catalytic converters push harmful exhaust fumes through a filter of palladium, platinum and rhodium, the latter of which has seen a significant price spike in the past year. The metal that was selling for about $5,000 per ounce at the beginning of last year was fetching about $27,000 for the same amount this spring, according to indices.
The rash of converter thefts in the region comes just as new state regulations have bumped the cost of replacing the devices. In January, the state mandated that all new converters be in compliance with California’s stricter emissions standards and barred mechanics from installing used devices that don’t comply.
Anyone caught trying to circumvent the new regulations could be fined up to $47,357 each day of the violation, according to the state health department.
The new rules have resulted in the cost of replacing a converter to jump from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, according to Edgar León, owner of Aurora Auto Pros on Airport Boulevard.
“Before all these laws we were able to install converters that were mid hundreds or low hundreds, and now because the options are not a lot — if we can find one outside of the dealership — it costs more,” he said.
León said he’s worked on several vehicles that have had their catalytic converters stolen in recent months, including a Toyota Tundra that required two new converters and other repair work that totaled about $6,000.
“We had to get them from the dealership, and it took a few weeks actually to get them,” he said.
León said he believes thieves target taller vehicles as their lifted chassises provide more room to slip under and saw off the devices. He said Toyota Priuses are frequent targets as well.
Police in Denver this month teamed up with mechanics in training to spay paint and etch identification numbers into catalytic converters to deter thieves, according to that department’s Facebook page.
Longshore said Aurora Police are aware of the program, and encourage residents to do the same to their own converters.
He encouraged anyone who may have information on catalytic converter thefts in the city to contact the Denver Metro Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. Tipsters can remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards up to $2,000.