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Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise. Can ‘cat covers’ help?

Updated September 2, 2022 - 2:11 pm

Nearly two years ago, the owners of Red Rock Repair in northwest Las Vegas noticed a significant increase in customers seeking repairs because thieves had stolen the catalytic converter off their vehicles.

Since then, the problem for Las Vegas Valley motorists has only gotten worse, said Danielle Vila, who co-owns the shop on West Charleston Boulevard with her husband, Sean McGuigan.

“It definitely seems to be up a lot more,” Vila said. “I would say our calls are up 20 to 30 percent from people having their cats stolen.”

The Metropolitan Police Department said this past week that Vila’s observation is correct. As of late August of 2021, there were 1,076 catalytic converter thefts reported. Police spokesman Larry Hadfield said so far this year, there have been 1,783 catalytic converter thefts, a 66 percent increase in one year.

“The same thing over and over again,” said Chad Sims, general manager at exhaust parts wholesaler Supreme Automotive Warehouse on Highland Drive in central Las Vegas. The business receives daily calls from customers seeking catalytic converters to replace the ones thieves have stolen.

Catalytic converters are installed on vehicles to decrease carbon monoxide emissions. They are targeted by thieves for the valuable rhodium and palladium inside.

Danielle Naspinski, spokeswoman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said Las Vegas is not alone in seeing a significant rise in catalytic converter thefts due to the demand for the heavy metals.

The thefts reported to the bureau nationwide, she said, jumped by 203 percent from 2020 to 2021.

“It is important to know that catalytic converter thefts remain grossly unreported,” Naspinski said in an email. “Some victims do not report the theft to insurers. Similarly, not all victims report the theft to law enforcement.”

In Henderson, Custom Motorsports has come up with a solution for the problem.

Shop manager Mason Decosta said the off-roading shop is now taking what are known as skid plates, which are steel protective covers for transmissions on off-road vehicles, and manufacturing them with a new design to turn them into “cat covers” for more traditional vehicles. The devices cover the catalytic converter and cost, on average, roughly $340.

“We add an extra piece, it wraps up,” Decosta said. “It is a quick deterrent. People will crawl underneath the vehicle, they’ll see it and say, ‘You know what, let’s move on.’”

Decosta said the Toyota Prius is a common target for thieves, as are pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. Toyota Tundras made between 2007 and 2021, for example, are equipped with four catalytic converters.

Coverage of the thefts, depends on insurance, but many victims spend thousands of dollars replacing catalytic converters.

“You are talking some serious money to replace them,” Decosta said, adding that installing a cat cover “is peace of mind.”

Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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