MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The St. Paul Police Department is offering an auto care clinic to help drivers protect a frequently stolen item: catalytic converters. Since the beginning of the year 600 catalytic converters have been stolen from St. Paul residents.

Dave Peterson is working hard to keep up with demand. Since the beginning of this year the biggest part of his business — Dave’s Custom Muffler and Brakes — has been replacing stolen catalytic converters.

READ MORE: Rural Minnesota Sees Rise In Catalytic Converter Thefts

“There are people waiting over a week to get in here, two weeks,” he said. “200 to 300 or more.”

His crews are replacing at least 15 catalytic converters a day. Peterson believes because it is so lucrative to sell the stolen converters they are being taken at an alarming rate.

“I guess it’s the precious metals — rhodium, platinum — it is the highest it’s ever been right now. It’s higher than gold per ounce,” Peterson said.

St. Paul Police have a plan they hope will help detour thieves.

“We’re going to try and spray paint a little template on the catalytic converter that says SPPD on it. We’re going to try, if we can get underneath the vehicle, to engrave the license plate number of the vehicle the catalytic converter is on,” Commander Kurt Hallstrom said. “It’s a serious, significant problem and we want to try and do something.”

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Hallstrom uses a high temperature spray paint good for up to 2,000 degrees. He hopes the marked catalytic converters will keep people from taking them and others from purchasing them.

“We’re hoping that the scrap yards and the people who are buying them will see these markings and grinding on the catalytic converter and say ‘I’m not going to buy that one,’ or ‘I’m not going to give you premium dollar for that,'” he said.

Six per day are reported stolen but police believe that does not represent the number of catalytic converters thefts that are never reported.

Peterson says he supports St. Paul’s efforts and is also painting the ones he installs orange.

“The ones I install are made with ceramic inside. They’re worth, if you do try to cut them and get them, they are worth about $8 to $18,” he said.

The auto care clinic Saturday at Allianz Field Stadium is full. St. Paul Police are planning future clinics to meet the demand.

Reg Chapman