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Catalytic converter thefts are spiking again

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The quick-hit job of stealing catalytic converters off cars has resurfaced across Snohomish County, and police want people to protect their pocketbooks.
The converters are part of a gasoline car’s emissions control system.
Trucks and SUVs with decent ground clearance are the usual targets, but Toyota Priuses are also becoming frequent picks. The Prius is prized because the catalytic converters on hybrid cars typically are in better condition because the car only uses it while in gas mode. Their less-used condition makes converters off hybrids more valuable to bring to scrap metal buyers.
You can tell if the catalytic converter is gone: The car is unusually noisy.
Worse, having a shop replace it averages $1,000 to $1,300 for parts and labor.
Thieves love it because these are surprisingly quick and easy to take by removing a few bolts or, worse, using a battery-operated saw to sever the exhaust lines that feed to the converter box.
Car owners can fight back. Shops sell catalytic converter cages and shields that add an extra obstacle to removal. These run $200 to $500.
Everett resident Ryan Weber had his catalytic converter stolen in Lynnwood. He said this cost him $250 for his insurance deductible and his car was in a shop for a week.
Since the start of the year, the sheriff’s office has seen 55 catalytic converter theft reports, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Courtney O’Keefe said. “In comparison to the same timeframe last year we only had two.”
Everett Police made a public announcement about a string of recent thefts.
Last week, thefts began happening in Monroe. Somebody stole from two small buses in the school district bus yard, plus a school district maintenance truck parked at Frank Wagner Elementary. Additionally, a company discovered three of its vehicles were hit over last weekend, department spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.
Thieves have not stolen from any Monroe residents’ personal cars as of March 10.
Everett Police says cars are at higher risk where they are left unseen, such as in dense parking lots where thieves can sneak under covertly. A few thefts have been on residential streets.
ONB Automotive, a repair shop in Everett, has replaced six since November.
“We’ve seen a rash of them,” said Summer Anderson, a service adviser at ONB. A few customer victims live within blocks of each other in North Everett. ONB has seen jobs from five Priuses and one Dodge Ram truck.
The Ram was mangled by a botched theft — the thief ended up ripping out the driveline, Anderson said.
When installing a new converter, ONB marks the car’s VIN number onto the converter as an extra anti-theft measure.
Catalytic converters contain the precious metals palladium, platinum and rhodium, which help neutralize certain exhaust pollutants. Scrap metal prices are generally up.
The global palladium market, meanwhile, is running short. The supply recently constricted tighter when a large palladium mining company, Nornickel, suspended two of its Siberian mines last month due to a mine failure.




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