Catalytic Converter Thefts Continue in Madison

by Safety Connection

June 17, 2023

“Yes, and as long as there’s value in these items, they’ll continue to be a target of thieves.” That’s what a Madison Police captain told us this week when we asked whether catalytic converter thefts are still occurring regularly in Madison.

That same day a resident on the west side of Madison reported on Nextdoor that her Mitsubishi Outlander was stripped of its catalytic converter for the second time this year. Earlier this year a rash of the thefts occurred on Madison’s east side and the victims were all patients or visitors to UW Hospital East and a nearby clinic.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries told NPR in November 2022, “‘Public parking spots of all kinds have become a target for daytime theft. [At] hospitals, it’s happening because people go to the hospital and either park and visit, or they’re in the hospital for a long period of time, and their car sits there,’ said Todd Foreman, the group’s director of law enforcement outreach.”

A bill was signed into law in March of 2022 in Wisconsin that requires individuals to show photo ID to prove they lawfully own a converter before selling it. And scrap dealers are required to keep a record of sales that includes a seller’s vehicle license plate and a description “of the proprietary article.” But that hasn’t stopped thieves from stealing them and selling them on the black market.

Any vehicle can be a target, but thieves have favorites. In the Madison area the Toyota Prius is the vehicle model most mentioned by police. According to Carfax, these are the top 10 vehicles that were targeted in the Midwest in 2022:

  • Ford F-series Truck
  • Chevy Equinox
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota Prius
  • Ford Econoline
  • Ford Explorer
  • Buick Encore
  • Chevy Cruze
  • Chevy Trax
  • Honda Accord

Unfortunately it’s difficult to prevent these thefts because they can occur within minutes. The damage can cost thousands of dollars to fix, so if you own a vulnerable vehicle like a Toyota Prius you may want to consider getting a protective shield installed by your favorite car repair shop (the one pictured cost $550 for purchase and installation).

  • If you can’t park your car inside a locked garage, choose a well-lit area close to your home or apartment building where people frequently come and go.
  • Install a visible security camera to deter thieves and record their activity
  • Engrave your VIN number onto your converter to make it easier to identify if it’s stolen
  • Call the police to investigate if you see someone checking under vehicles in an odd location such as a parking lot

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