Driving the Future: Disrupt catalytic converter theft

J. Skyler McKinley

Today’s automobiles are rolling testaments to the power of technology. After all, they’ve gotten smarter, more reliable, and most importantly for those of us who cherish the splendors of Colorado’s natural beauty, they’ve gotten a lot cleaner.

Take the catalytic converter, which helps clean up the exhaust of internal combustion vehicles. These devices, which have been standard since 1975, have been in the news a lot lately for all the wrong reasons—they’re being stolen in record numbers. According to Colorado State Patrol data, only 151 catalytic converters were reported stolen to Colorado law enforcement agencies in 2019. In 2020, that number jumped to 930. As of Sept. 2021, a total of 4,158 Coloradans have had their catalytic converters stolen.

Why the huge rise? Well, catalytic converters are chock-full of precious metals, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which have important uses in advanced computing and manufacturing. Amid the recent economic crisis, these easy-to-remove devices have become very attractive to would-be thieves, who sell them and their raw materials on the black market. Notably, hybrid vehicles are at an increased risk, as their catalytic converters tend to be in better shape, and therefore more valuable, since they generate less pollution.

Because of this, AAA Colorado has partnered with the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority (CATPA), and other key state and law enforcement partners, to institute a first-of-its-kind program, paid for by CATPA, to curb catalytic converter theft—and it’s easy for you to participate.

The next time your car needs an oil change, a repair, or other standard maintenance, visit AAA.com/Catalytic to find a participating AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you, then make an appointment. As part of your scheduled service, a technician will also apply a non-removable etched ID number to your catalytic converter, and register it in a statewide theft prevention database—at no additional cost to you. You’ll also receive some window stickers to warn would-be thieves that you’re protected.

We’re proud to be the first in the country to launch this initiative because, no matter what the future throws at us, AAA Colorado will always rise to the occasion with novel solutions to help you get around safely, securely, and with peace of mind.

J. Skyler McKinley is AAA Colorado’s spokesman and director of government affairs.