MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Catalytic converter thefts aren’t just on the rise in the Twin Cities, some rural Minnesota counties have seen cases more than double since last year.

Thieves take advantage of locations where vehicles are sitting unwatched for days or even weeks.

READ MORE: Bill Aims To Curb Sales Of Stolen Catalytic Converters

As general manager of Metro Area Construction in Dassel, Juan Garza and his crew rely on their trucks for business. But recently those same vehicles have become a target for thieves.

“This truck’s about $7,000 worth. It’s a 2003, it’s a pretty old flatbed, you know, but it was 2,400 bucks just to get the catalytic converter back on,” said Garza.

With three trucks targeted, Garza’s company has become part of a growing statistic in Meeker County. In 2019 just two catalytic converters were reported stolen. In 2020 that number jumped to 12. Just three months into this year that number is already at 24 and Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze believes that’s low.

“A lot of the reports and what we’ve discovered as a pattern is they are looking for vehicles that have been parked for long periods of time and they’re hitting those, so they don’t get reported right away,” said Cruze.

READ MORE: Charges: Man In Clown Mask Stole Catalytic Converters From Dealership With Cordless Saw

At country churches, businesses and on farms, it’s not just cars and trucks. In some counties, old tractors sitting idle have become a target because some of their parts are considered antiques.

“It happens quickly. They’re using portable saws, portable grinders and within a couple minutes they’ve got those things removed,” said Cruze while talking about converter thefts.

According to state law, people are supposed to show ID when they sell converters to scrap metal businesses. Cruze is also hoping lawmakers can help. A bill at the Capitol would make it illegal to possess a used catalytic converter unless you can prove ownership. And scrap yards would only be allowed to buy them from legitimate businesses, like auto repair shops.

“It’ll at least give us an opportunity to start backtracking,” said Cruze. “We need the public to be vigilant and we need people to tell us, ‘Hey, there’s some activity going on here we’d really like you to look at,’ and get us out there.”

Cruze recommends parking your vehicles inside when you can, or at least in well-lit areas.

John Lauritsen