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SANTA FE – It’s a crime that can take minutes, cause your vehicle to malfunction, damage the environment, and cost thousands to replace the stolen part.
Catalyst thefts have increased in Santa Fe and other communities, Lt. David Webb of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Santa Fe Police Department.
The converter “is a device that, together with the exhaust system, looks like a small silencer. It was developed to convert the polluting exhaust gases from an engine into less harmful gases, ”explains the website of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
“The theft of catalytic converters has increased significantly across the country since March 2020, the start of the global pandemic,” said the Crime Bureau.
In October the department began to notice the increase in thefts, with about 53 committed in the city that month, and another 20 stolen from November through the 22nd, Webb said in an interview on Wednesday. He said Albuquerque police and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office have also seen increased converter thefts.
“It’s not isolated from Santa Fe, it’s an opportunistic crime. When the opportunity arises, it’s very fast, it’s fast, it’s fast, and it seems to bother us everywhere in New Mexico, ”said Webb. “Essentially, the converter is stolen and the precious metals that are in that converter are extracted and taken to a junkyard to be converted into cash.”
While thieves can fetch $ 50 to $ 800 for a converter, “the effect it has on the victim is much more expensive,” said Webb. “To fix a vehicle after their cat is stolen, it can cost the victim more than $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 to have it repaired and replaced.”
It’s a crime that often thieves work together.
“Often times, thieves can remove these in less than two minutes by either removing screws or cutting them off with a portable saw or cutting wheel,” said Webb.
“The suspects operate in teams, they have been on the lookout, they have one person who operates a jack depending on the height of the vehicle so they can raise it, and then they have the third person who goes under the car and cuts off the catalytic converter.” Converter and go, ”said the lieutenant.
Although brands like Dodge or Chevrolet can also be involved, local thieves prefer a different brand. “In Santa Fe, the Toyota (Prius) brand seems to be the target vehicle,” said Webb. “Because it’s a hybrid and has a lot of expensive materials in this converter.”
Catalysts contain valuable metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium.
Public vigilance and awareness can help prevent potential theft. “Our department tried to raise public awareness. Call us if you see any suspicious activity in parking lots … in residential complexes, “said Webb.
The department’s Facebook page and social media account explain what the converters are, how they are stolen, and what they look like. The public can also take a proactive approach by spraying the converter with high temperature fluorescent paint to make it stand out, engraving your VIN number on the converter, and using cables and metal plates to prevent theft.
The department has contacted the local junkyard to let them know that if they see any (a converter) engraved with a VIN number or painted in a fluorescent paint they should contact the police, “said Webb.
Theft of catalysts can be reported to the department at 505-428-3710.