MINNEAPOLIS – More than 100 local police departments and auto repair shops in the Twin Cities and beyond are a part of a state pilot program designed to deter thefts of cars’ catalytic converters, which have increased in the last few years.
The initiative, run by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, offers free labels with serial numbers to Minnesotans who drive one of the 15 most targeted cars. Mechanics etch the unique marking, which has a number and a QR code, onto a catalytic converter with acid paint. It can then be registered and traced by law enforcement.
Golden Valley Tire and Service was among the first, which has since grown to include dozens more law enforcement agencies and businesses. Jim Kirchner, the assistant service manager, said the labels have become increasingly popular over the last several months.
“My customers that have an especially vulnerable vehicle that the state’s taken care of, it delights them to know they can get a little peace of mind for free,” Kirchner said.
But interest expanded beyond those that qualified for the free state program, so the shop ordered some of its own from CatGuard – the same company the state uses – for people to purchase and install, regardless of what car they drive. Golden Valley Tire & Service sells them for under $100.
The Minnesota Legislature earmarked $400,000 for the pilot last year. The law requires scrap metal dealers to make a record of parts with any of these markings.
“If someone were to try and take your stolen converter to a scrap facility to get cash for it, and they were to run the serial number, it would come back as a red flag,” Kirchner said.
St. Louis Park Police already disbursed its share of the state-funded serial number. But the department will have an event in a few weeks where cars can get special paint stain. Lt. Mike Garland said the serial numbers and other markings are a deterrent and the only real way to track the parts down once they are stolen.
“As far as reuniting a converter with its owner and their vehicle after it’s been stolen, if it doesn’t contain some type of unique marking or identifier, that’s just something that’s gonna be impossible pretty much,” Garland said.
Shakopee Police recently announced they joined the state program and are offering the labels those with vulnerable cars. Chaska Police is having an event from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and there will be 150 available for any vehicle, said Chaska Officer Julie Janke.
She noted two recent thefts of catalytic converters were on a Jeep and Ford Escape – neither car is on the list for the most-targeted cars. Janke said the department first got 50 of the CatGuard stickers in May and ran out of them in 25 minutes.
“It’s all over,” Janke said of the thefts. “It’s just crazy.”
Click here to see what cities are participating.
The most targeted vehicles for stealing catalytic converters are:
Hyundai Santa Fe
Source: CBS Minnesota