By Jennifer McRae

DENVER (CBS4) – Dozens of Denver residents are being met with an unusual sound when they start their cars. A roaring noise after turning the key is often the sound of stolen catalytic converter. In 2019, Denver Police received 15 reports of stolen catalytic converters. In 2020, there were 257.

(credit: CBS)

These numbers don’t include the thefts many victims don’t report to police.

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When Alyssa Wurzberg spoke to CBS4’s Tori Mason in December, she hadn’t reported her stolen catalytic converter yet.

Denver police encourage victims to do so.

“It’s happening in the middle of the night. We have had reports where victims have been woken up to a noise outside and they’ll see two or three suspects scatter off into the darkness of the night. Unfortunately, we haven’t had solid leads to follow up on yet,” said DPD Sergeant George Kenny. “In 2021, it has really taken off.”

In the month of January 2021, DPD received 108 reports of catalytic converter theft. In January 2020, DPD received one.

The cost of replacing these car parts can cost hundreds of dollars. While victims head to a body shop, the next stop for thieves is often a scrap yard. The precious metals in catalytic converters can be worth over $100.

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“Unfortunately, there are no regulation on scrap yards to report a load of metal coming in to police. That’s the frustrating part about this whole thing,” said Kenny. “They don’t know they’re stolen because you can’t really track catalytic convertor serial numbers. It’s just metal coming into the scrap yards and there’s no regulation to report that to authorities.”

Kenny these thefts are becoming a priority for Denver police. They are expensive property crimes and if you witness these thefts taking place, it’s absolutely a reason to call 911. Kenny says DPD has already increased patrol.

“Our Metro Auto Theft Task Force is aware of the problem and they’re jumping in with other jurisdictions. When suspects are caught with further crimes, they’re going to be questioned and interviewed regarding these thefts,” said Kenny.

(credit: CBS)

Kenny says there isn’t a specific area in Denver that’s seeing the most theft. Catalytic convertor theft is up nationwide. Hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, are commonly targeted by thieves.

“Our community resource officer was just speaking to a victim who has a Toyota Prius. He learned about a plate that will cover your catalytic converter and prevent it from being stolen. That’s one good avenue that we’re pursuing throughout the community,” said Kenny.

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There’s not much you can do to prevent a catalytic converter from being stolen, especially if you park on the street. Kenny suggests parking in well-lit areas, close to building entrances.

Jennifer McRae