Program goes on: Car dealership etches catalytic converters to prevent theft

Nov 15, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:49 am

Image: A technician works on a catalytic converter at Titus-Will Toyota in Tacoma on Tuesday, Nov. ...

A technician works on a catalytic converter at Titus-Will Toyota in Tacoma on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

If you live and drive in parts of Western Washington, you will be able to worry a little less about your catalytic converter being stolen.

The Tacoma Police Department and Titus-Will Toyota are partnering again on a program known as CATCON ID to etch catalytic converters with a unique serial number to prevent and discourage theft.

The converter also is sprayed with bright orange paint and there is a window sticker to alert would-be thieves that the car is protected.

The dealership and the department last teamed up for a day-long CATCON ID initiative on Nov. 3.

“I think the word is getting out that if you do steal a catalytic converter, the way it is marked, and identified the local businesses are not going to work with you should you bring what is believed to be a stolen catalytic converter to their business,” Tacoma Police Department Detective William Muse said.

Previous coverage: West Coast crime ring busted for trafficking $22 million in stolen catalytic converters

The program is working so well that catalytic converter thefts are down 79% since it started.

Catalytic converters remain valuable to thieves

Catalytic converter theft has been a serious threat to car owners for years, but there have been far more incidents than previously reported, Carfax reported earlier this year. As many as 153,000 were stolen across the U.S. in 2022, the company said.

From KIRO 7: Thieves are cutting catalytic converters and cashing in

Carfax data scientists came up with that estimate after looking into catalytic converter replacements from millions of service records and the total was actually up 2% from 2021.

The converters are still such highly sought-after targets because thieves hope to make a big payday by melting down the precious metals found in the anti-pollution devices – namely, platinum, palladium, and rhodium, Carfax reported.

Platinum, as an example, was trading at nearly $880 per ounce Tuesday. Palladium was nearly $1,000 an ounce. Rhodium was going for about $4,400 per ounce. All are down considerably year over year, but the metals can still provide packaged paydays in the form of the converters to thieves.

Of the top 10 targeted cars nationwide in 2022, three were Ford and Chevrolet models and Honda and Toyota had two each, Carfax reported.

Looking at the top 10 targeted cars in the West, including the state of Washington, three were Toyota and Ford models, Honda had two and Subaru and Nissan each had one, the company added.

Willing dealerships help the program succeed

Muse said the program and its success would not be possible without Titus-Will Toyota.

“We weren’t really sure what to expect, but the absolutely staggering amount of people who would show up and the positive response we got from them was kind of overwhelming,” Jordan Owens of Titus-Will Toyota said. “They didn’t expect something like this to come out of a car dealership.”

Owens says some drivers have brought all of their vehicles in to be etched. One woman brought in seven cars.

During the launch of this project in November 2022, over 300 vehicles were tagged, the Tacoma Police Department reported in a press release earlier this year.

The best part, along with keeping their catalytic converters safe, the CATCON ID program is free.

“They didn’t expect something like this to come out of a car dealership,” Owens said.

It seems such a simple solution, but one not possible without community partners like Titus-Will Toyota working hand-in-hand with police.

“Law enforcement can’t do it all on our own,” Muse said. “We have to think of new ways of being able to keep the public safe, ensure we have the confidence of the public and showing them innovative ways to fight crime.”

Titus-Will is planning another CATCON ID day in January.

Other cities in Western Washington that have hosted CATCON ID events in the past include Bellevue, Renton, Everett and Bothell.

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

KIRO Newsradio

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Program goes on: Car dealership etches catalytic converters to prevent theft