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Surge in catalytic converter thefts continues across Wichita

A can full of catalytic converters seized in a raid in Jeffersontown, Kentucky Nov. 18, 2021.
A can full of catalytic converters seized in a raid in Jeffersontown, Kentucky Nov. 18, 2021.(Marc Wilson)
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 4:12 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Catalytic converter thefts continue to be a problem nationally and in Wichita. Locally, by the number of reported thefts, the problem has ballooned in 2021, dwarfing the number of thefts reported last. year.

In a year that’s seen nearly 1,200 incidents of catalytic converter thefts reported in Wichita, June and July so far have been the worst months. In June, 168 thefts were reported. That’s compared to 14 in June of last year. The thefts aren’t happening in any particular part of the city.

“These people that are doing these aren’t just doing one and forgetting about it. They are doing (it) as survival,” Wichita Police Sgt. Trevor McDonald said of the thieves.

Thieves can take the converters in less than a minute. Most of them are taken at night and criminals are stealing the parts by any means they can. Police said some have been caught on bicycles with a catalytic converter under their arm. Police said the main reason behind the thefts is so the thieves can support their drug addictions and the impact on victims can be devastating.

“I’ve had personal conversations with people that have said, ‘listen, I’ve got to decide now between fixing my catalytic converter or just putting a piece of pipe in it because the difference is repairing this or Christmas presents for my kids,’” McDonald said.

Police said the precious metal inside catalytic converters is valuable and some have no serial number or way to trace it if it gets stolen.

The thieves take the converters to recyclers where they can get anywhere from $20 to $200 apiece, depending on the vehicle it came from. Police said the Metal Theft Reduction Act is in place in Kansas. There is a database where the identification of a part’s seller, the item, a photo of the item and a tag on the car it came from is uploaded. For the most part, recyclers have been good about checking the database, but criminals have been able to find cracks in the system.

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