Demand for scrap leads to catalytic converter thefts

Vehicle exhaust systems are being targeted for the precious metals in them, authorities say.

The underside of a Toyota Prius in Superior that had its catalytic converter stolen is seen in this July 13 photo. The exhaust shows fresh cut marks where the part was sawed out. (Maria Lockwood /

Thieves have been targeting Superior vehicles for catalytic converters recently, according to the Superior Police Department.

Part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, catalytic converters contain precious metals that act as a catalyst to help fuel burn completely.

“Catalytic converters have been a target for thieves for years. They fetch pretty good money from recycling companies,” said Superior Assistant Police Chief John Kiel.

When scrap prices go up, so do thefts of catalytic converters, said Pat Moon, owner of Moon’s Auto Service and Exhaust in the city's Billings Park neighborhood.

“For some reason the converter buyers right now are paying a lot for them,” Moon said, probably based on low supply or increased demand.


A catalytic converter can quickly and easily be lopped off of a vehicle with a battery-powered saw, according to Kiel.

“The thieves are cutting them off of cars,” Moon said. “I’ve lost several myself.”

He’s also worked on vehicles that have fallen victim to the thefts, including a truck from Dan’s Feed Bin. Repairs can cost thousands of dollars, Moon said, depending on the damage left behind.

The Superior Police Department has received 15 reports of catalytic converter thefts so far this year, including four in July. Kiel said fleet trucks at local businesses, in particular, have been targeted.

That’s not surprising, Moon said, because a thief can get underneath a large truck without a jack.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot the public can do unless they can park in a garage,” Kiel said.

People without a garage are encouraged to keep their vehicle in a lighted area, if possible.

If a member of the public sees someone walking around with a saw, Kiel said, it might be worth calling 911 to have police check it out. And keep an ear out for the sound of a saw, Moon said.


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The recently-sawed-off edge of the exhaust system under a Toyota Prius in Superior can be seen in this July 13 picture. (Maria Lockwood /

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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