Wichita seeing rise in catalytic converter thefts

Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Police Department is seeing a rise in catalytic converter thefts, making it the most converter thefts in a decade.

“451 cases with a total loss of $932,000,” said Sgt. Trevor McDonald, Wichita Police Department

In 2019, the Wichita Police Department reported 191 total cases of catalytic converter thefts. This year that number is more than double and is the highest number of cases in catalytic converter theft in the last 10 years. McDonald said one reason for this increase is due to precious metals inside of catalytic converters.

“Currently, the raw steel metal prices are down and the precious metals that are in catalytic converters are still elevated,” said Sgt. McDonald.

One local business said they’ve had catalytic converters cut from vehicles numerous times this year, costing them thousands of dollars for replacements and repairs.

“The biggest one was probably about $25,000 worth of converters, but this year has been terrible compared to years before,” said Donovan Auto and Truck Center General Sales Manager, Shawn Stafford.

Stafford said thefts seem to occur most on diesel and box trucks due to accessibility. He said this not only impacts their business, but it impacts the companies that depend on these vehicles to run their own companies.

“We fix them after a major problem and then somebody cuts a catalytic converter out from under them and then we are having trouble getting them because there is so much of this going on, so, then it puts their truck out another two weeks,” said Stafford. “It’s not only affecting businesses it’s also affecting the general public.”

Companies that buy catalytic converters like Hurst Recycling have faced challenges too.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s like a legitimate industry,” Hurst Recycling Lead Buyer, Jordan Ternes. “Everybody things that the only time you get a converter is if it’s stolen, but there’s a lot of salvage yards, muffler shops, auto repair places where cars are recycled.”

Ternes said Hurst only deals with businesses that have a legitimate reason to have catalytic converters, nor do they buy converters from the street traffic. In addition, the business also has a scrap license to buy catalytic converters and requires the business to report where the part comes from.

Sgt. McDonald said while the number of catalytic converter thefts has become a growing concern, WPD is working in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. WPD is working to ensure businesses buying converters are in compliance with the state law, which requires registration, along with including information on where the converter was purchased from in a database.

As for what you can do to try to protect your vehicle from theft.

“Keep your car, in a lighted area, don’t park it in an alley don’t leave it sitting somewhere overnight,” said Stafford.

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