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Catalytic converter thefts on the rise in Spokane, North Idaho: How to avoid being a target

Police nationwide are reporting a surge in cases, as the asking price for some of the precious metals in catalytic converters climb to a record high.
Credit: Coeur d'Alene Police Department
Catalytic converter theft in Coeur d'Alene

SPOKANE, Wash. — Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in the Inland Northwest, prompting police to offer tips about how people can prevent them.

The New York Times reports that police nationwide are reporting a surge in cases, as stricter car emissions rules around the world have pushed the asking price for some of the precious metals in catalytic converters to "record highs." Thieves typically use a saw or wrench to remove them. 

In a press release sent on Feb. 18, Spokane Police Officer John O'Brien said the city is "experiencing a growth in catalytic converter thefts from vehicles." Sweatshop Auto Sales on North Market Street in Spokane was the victim of a catalytic converter theft in its lost at about 8 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 22. Employees watched video of the incident and saw the suspect, 38-year-old Robert Evans, pull into the parking lot, Spokane police said. 

Police said Evans walked around the lot and got under the vehicle before he may have used a saw to cut the catalytic converter from the vehicle. He then got into his own car and fled the scene, according to police. 

Employees from the dealership then found a vehicle matching the suspect's in a parking lot at Wellesley Avenue and Crestline Street hours after the theft. They then called 911 to report the incident, police said. 

Officers arrived on scene minutes later to detain Evans and a female passenger. Evans provided officers with a fake name, most likely because he had a felony warrant for his arrest out of Pasco for a vehicle theft, police said. 

Police said Evans met up with another man after the theft and sold the catalytic converter for $50. Officers were able to recover the catalytic converter and return it to its owners. 

The $50 was returned to the man who bought the catalytic converter and Evans went to jail for felony theft and trafficking of stolen property, police said. The investigation into the other thefts involving catalytic converters is still ongoing.

Anyone who has become a victim of catalytic converter theft in Spokane is asked to report the incident to Crime Check at 509-456-2233. Those who are contacted by people buying or selling catalytic converters are also asked to call Crime Check. 

North Idaho also sees increase in catalytic converter thefts

The uptick in catalytic converted thefts isn't limited to the Spokane area. The Coeur d'Alene Police Department said in a press release that it has also received multiple reports of thefts from passenger cars, RVs and moving trucks over the past five months in addition to "many other similar thefts" in or around Kootenai and Spokane counties.

 A recent theft in Coeur d’Alene occurred at a closed business during the week of Feb. 20 in the 3200 block of N. Government Way. Police provided surveillance photos of two suspects, a man and a woman, and they vehicle they were driving.

Credit: Coeur d'Alene Police Department
Catalytic converter theft in Coeur d'Alene
Credit: Coeur d'Alene Police Department
Catalytic converter theft suspects' vehicle

Anyone who knows the identity of the suspects or has any other information related to catalytic converter thefts is asked to call the Coeur d'Alene Police Department at 208-769-2320 or e-mail a tip to policetips@cdaid.org.

Police offer tips to help prevent catalytic converter thefts

Spokane and Coeur d'Alene police also offered the following tips to help people try to prevent catalytic converter thefts: 

  • Park your vehicle in a secure garage. If you don't have a garage, park it in well-lit areas close to building entrances and in fenced enclosures. 
  • Install motion lights in your driveway or parking area or surveillance equipment around your property. 
  • Get your catalytic converter welded to your car's frame, which may make it harder to steal. 
  • Install a catalytic converter protection device. 
  • Consider engraving your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the catalytic converter, as this may help alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen and make it easier to identify the owner.
  • Calibrate your car's alarm to set off when it detects vibration.
  •  If you have a high-riding vehicle, such as a truck, van or SUV, as well as a lower-profile vehicle, park the low-profile one next to the bigger vehicle to try and make access underneath it more difficult.