A boom in catalytic converter thefts in Colorado has also hit La Plata County.
Three catalytic converters were stolen within a few days in late June, according to law enforcement.
On June 23, two were reported stolen from one vehicle parked in the 29000 block of U.S. Highway 160 near Hesperus, totaling more than $4,000.
A day later another catalytic converter was reported stolen from a vehicle parked along County Road 302, south of Durango, with repair costs quoted at about $3,000.
The Durango Police Department has received a report of two catalytic converters stolen in Durango, said DPD Deputy Chief Brice Current.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that this has happened since I’ve been here for 20 years,” said Chris Burke, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
Thieves target the catalytic converters because they contain precious metals such as palladium, Burke said.
Palladium and rhodium, which is also in catalytic converters, are trading at thousands of dollars per ounce.
From 2019 to 2021, catalytic converter thefts in Colorado have swelled more than 5,000%, according to data from the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority.
To combat the rising thefts, the Colorado Legislature and Gov. Jared Polis passed legislation in early June that strengthened reporting and inspection requirements at secondhand facilities and shops and created an identification and theft prevention grant program to help with public education.
Colorado State Patrol also started a program this year in which vehicle owners can have a serial number etched into their catalytic converters for free, allowing law enforcement to better trace the stolen parts.
The growing trend in catalytic converter theft has not been unique to Colorado with places like Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas reporting significant increases. The problems have been most acute in large urban areas.
Durango has not seen the same increase in thefts and it has not been a significant issue, Current said.
In an email, Burke said residents could install a theft shield, clamp or lock to their vehicles, and he recommended parking inside or in a well-lit area if possible. Installing surveillance cameras or motion-sensor lights can also help.
Companies also make alarms specifically for catalytic converters, he said in an interview.
Burke asked that anyone report suspicious activity or noise to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.