Catalytic converter thefts are way down in Minnesota. A law change isn’t the only reason.

Catalytic converter thefts are way down in Minnesota. A law change isn’t the only reason.

Catalytic converter thefts are way down in Minnesota. A law change isn’t the only reason.

A crime wave that swept across Minnesota and the nation suddenly looks more like a ripple.

To the relief of car owners and police, catalytic converter thefts are trending down for the first time in several years.

In the city of Bloomington, reported catalytic converter thefts are down from 315 in 2022 to just 69 through August of this year, Deputy Chief Kim Clauson told 5 INVESTIGATES.

“It’s an example actually of law enforcement, community, businesses, and the legislature all working together,” Clauson said.

Bloomington became a microcosm of a crisis that cost victims hundreds or thousands of dollars and overwhelmed repair shops that fielded multiple calls a day.

“It was unbelievable,” said Scott Finn at Bobby and Steve’s Auto World. “Everything has slowed down.”

New laws

Catalytic converters contain precious metals that attract thieves who can cut the small part from underneath vehicles in seconds. 

The surge in thefts prompted lawmakers to pass new legislation in May that added criminal penalties for possessing detached catalytic converters without proper documentation.

So far, ten county attorneys around the Twin Cities along with the city attorneys in Minneapolis and St. Paul say they have not yet charged anyone under the new law.

The new law will also eventually require scrap dealers to report transactions to a new online database after 5 INVESTIGATES exposed a loophole that made it hard to track the sale of stolen parts in Minnesota. 

BeenVerified, a public data company, reports Minnesota is one of 42 states to enact new laws related to catalytic converter thefts since 2021. 

Kerry Sherin, a consumer advocate with the company, says metal prices may have also played a role in the spike in thefts as well as the more recent decline. 

“With the pandemic… a lot of shortages came with it, and the shortages included precious metals,” Sherin said. “Thieves know that there are smaller concentrations of these precious metals inside catalytic converters, and that’s really what they’re after.” 

Now, those metal prices are trending down again, and so are the thefts. 


Finn says he suspects word of mouth is also playing a role in the turnaround.

“It’s got to be awareness. People know what’s going on. They hear about it,” Finn said. “The criminals also hear about it, and when they start hearing about stuff too, and they start cracking down, they kind of step back a little bit.” 

The city of Bloomington previously enlisted Bobby and Steve’s to help carry out a pilot program with the Minnesota Department of Commerce to mark catalytic converters with identifying information with the hope of discouraging thieves from taking them. 

“Since the start of it, we’ve installed about 400 of them,” Finn said. “We had to limit how many we could do a day. Otherwise, our schedule would’ve filled up.”

A 5 INVESTIGATES review of statewide data from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reveals that ‘theft of motor vehicle parts’ is down significantly, from more than 13,000 in 2022 to about 4,600 so far this year.

That decline started late last year and coincided with a federal takedown of a national catalytic converter theft ring that was operating in Minnesota and eight other states. 

But advocates warn there is more work to do — the data from BeenVerified shows thefts nationwide are still nearly 21 times higher now than in 2019.

“I think the states taking these proactive efforts and steps to protect consumers is a great thing,” Sherin said. “I hope to see that it happens at the federal level, and I think that’s when we will really see the full country come to pre-pandemic levels.”