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Posted on: September 7, 2022

IFPD Encourages Marking Catalytic Converters to Combat Theft

Catalytic Converter Theft Info (2)

Since March 2022, the Idaho Falls Police Department has received over 60 reports of catalytic converter thefts within the city limits of Idaho Falls. This number represents a sharp increase in catalytic converter thefts from previous years and matches nationwide crime trends. 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, which tracks crimes that are reported to insurance companies, has published that the reported number of catalytic converter thefts across the country has increased from 1,298 in 2018 to 52,206 in 2021. 

Catalytic converters are devices incorporated into the exhaust system of vehicles that help to reduce emissions. Catalytic converters contain platinum, palladium, and rhodium – precious metals that can be valuable when salvaged. Replacing a catalytic converter can cost upwards of several hundred dollars depending on the vehicle.

One of the challenges with solving and prosecuting catalytic converter theft is the difficulty in distinguishing a stolen catalytic converter from a legitimately procured one when submitted for salvage. It is also incredibly difficult to match a known or suspected stolen catalytic converter back to the correct vehicle and owner. These are crucial elements in a successful arrest and prosecution. 

Despite these challenges, the Idaho Falls Police Department has made several successful arrests related to catalytic converter theft over the past months. Many other cases remain open and are currently under investigation. 

To assist with both prevention and the solvability of future cases, IFPD is encouraging vehicle owners to consider marking the catalytic converters on their vehicles, following guidelines from national experts. The International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) in cooperation with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has made this recommendation to dissuade a potential thief from choosing theirs to steal and to aid in successfully solving and prosecuting cases if a theft does occur. 

IAATI suggests two primary ways for vehicle owners to clearly mark their catalytic converters: 

“STEP ONE

Option One: Engraving & Marking. 

Engrave a number, such as the VIN or at least the last 8 of VIN or alternatively the vehicle’s license plate number with the state/province. Engravers can be purchased at most local hardware stores for around US$20.00. Caution must be used to not damage the catalytic converter while etching.

Option Two: Catalytic Converter Safe Label Solution

Vehicle owners and fleets may benefit from purchasing commercially produced markers kits that provide:

• An ultra-destruct label (that will break into pieces if an attempt is made to remove them) that provides an identification number onto each catalytic converter.

• Includes metal etching fluid that applies the same unique code into the metal.

• Includes a secure free registration database.

Even if the label is removed, the etched number information will remain clearly readable for catalytic converter ownership to quickly be verified.

STEP TWO:

Make your catalytic converter standout. Purchase high-temperature (1300-2000°F), automotive exhaust spray paint in a bright color, and spray a generous amount onto the converter. By adding bright paint, you can create a visible deterrent to alert thieves to move on. This paint also signals law enforcement and recyclers to look deeper for serial numbers or identification marks.”

The Idaho Falls Police Department encourages able-bodied community members to consider taking the steps above themselves or to speak with their preferred automotive professional for assistance marking their catalytic converters. 

For Idaho Falls residents who are not physically or financially able to do so, IFPD is partnering with Grease Monkey in Idaho Falls to offer a limited number of appointments to assist with this process. Due to limited appointments, this service will be available only to Idaho Falls residents and for personally owned vehicles. The registered owner of the vehicle must be present to authorize marking the catalytic converter. 

UPDATE: ALL APPOINTMENTS HAVE BEEN FILLED. Thank you all for your interest. We encourage anyone still interested in having their catalytic converters marked to contact their preferred automotive professional, or to consider marking themselves according to the direction from the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI). 


In addition to the above steps, vehicle owners are encouraged to park their vehicles in secure areas if possible or in well-lighted areas. Security cameras for private residences or businesses may act as a deterrent and can also provide a valuable tool in these investigations if a theft does occur. 

Community members are always encouraged to contact local law enforcement officers by calling (208)529-1200 if they notice any suspicious or concerning activity. 

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