By Kati Weis
VAIL, Colo. (CBS4) –¬†After a school in the popular ski town of Vail was burglarized by catalytic converter thieves, the Vail Police Department says it’s working on plans to hold a community program to help curtail the theft problem.

(credit: CBS)

A catalytic converter is a part that reduces toxic emissions from a car’s exhaust. Thieves want the part to sell it for the special metal inside.

Catalytic converters (credit: CBS)

“The issue is catalytic converters aren’t marked by the manufacturer, so when you remove it from the vehicle, there really is no serial number to determine who owns it or how to determine if it’s stolen,” explained Commander Ryan Kenney with Vail Police. “So we’ve been researching different methods of trying to prevent this type of crime, either through etching the catalytic converter with a serial number, or, some type of marking that would make it unique, so that we can determine who the owner is; the issue we’re having now is the effectiveness of those programs or will they be effective in preventing or helping us solve crimes once that happens.”

Kenney said Vail Police has been in touch with other departments about the best avenues to etch VIN numbers into citizens’ catalytic converters.

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“We have spoken to several outside agencies about what they’re doing to stop it, where we’re seeing that marking them, and has been effective,” Kenney said. “The process to mark them is kind of what we’re trying to determine which one will work best up here in a mountain environment.”

No event is planned yet, but police hope to be able to offer something to the public soon.

“So, we’re hoping that some of the manufacturers will start marking these devices, but that hasn’t happened yet, so we’re going to try to solve the problem until there’s a more large-scale solution, Kenney said.

Early Thursday morning, thieves hit three vans parked at the Vail Mountain School. A chase down Interstate 70 ensued, but the suspects got away.

Kenney says police believe the two suspects involved in the crime at the school are also responsible for other thefts in the Denver metro area.

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“We’re trying through different investigative means to tie several of these incidents together that have happened down in the Front Range and all through the mountain corridor,” Kenney said.

In Englewood, Precision Seamless Gutters’ fleet of trucks was hit just after the early March blizzard.

(credit: Precision Seamless Gutters/Facebook)

“I describe it as being punched, you get hit really quick and really hard, and it makes you stumble, and you got to shake it off a second,” said co-owner Stephen Stauffer.

Now the small business will have to scrap two trucks for parts and will try to buy a new one. A third truck can be repaired for a cost of $3,100.

So far, the suspects in that case have not been caught, either.

“I try to have a good perspective of everything happens for some reason and maybe these people who are doing this are more desperate than I am,” said Stauffer.

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Moving forward, Stauffer says he will be etching VIN numbers into his other catalytic converters, and plans to offer the service for other local businesses near him, as well as anyone else who needs it.

Kati Weis