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Thefts of catalytic converters are skyrocketing. Why? And what are lawmakers and law enforcement doing about it?

Judith Kohler, The Denver Post on

Published in Automotive News

Denver police have warned people that armed lookouts are a growing trend in the thefts.

And the Colorado General Assembly approved bills Wednesday to make it tougher to sell and buy stolen catalytic converters. One bill will funnel money raised from fines to help theft victims and theft prevention programs. Sen. Joann Ginal, a Fort Collins Democrat and co-sponsor of the three related bills, said her focus is on the victims.

“This can happen to anybody at any time and cause them great financial issues, disrupting their lives. This has got to stop,” Ginal said.

Metal recyclers and other businesses that buy auto parts will have to check a national database to see if a catalytic converter was stolen under Senate Bill 22-009. Sellers will have to prove the converters are theirs or that they’re authorized to have the parts and buyers will have to include the proof in their records. Law enforcement will have more authority to investigate the thefts.

Senate Bill 22-179 imposes penalties for tampering with vehicle emission-control systems. Under House Bill 22-1217, money from the fines will be used for Colorado State Patrol theft-prevention and tracking programs and to help theft victims and businesses.

A conference committee was working out differences between the House and Senate on a provision in SB 009 that would allow aftermarket replacements for stolen converters. Regulations passed in 2021 and modeled after California’s rules require a replacement be equipment from the original manufacturer or a new aftermarket converter that meets California’s standards.


The Colorado Independent Automobile Dealers Association asked Gov. Jared Polis in a letter Thursday to support allowing new catalytic converters that meet state emission standards even if they’re not certified by the California Air Resources Board. The CARB-certified converters are more expensive and are scarce because of supply-chain problems, the dealers’ association said.

The high cost of crime

“These aren’t cheap parts. Repair costs can range between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on the number of catalytic converters your vehicle has and the age of your vehicle,” said Skyler McKinley, AAA Colorado spokesman.

An aftermarket part, one not made by the original manufacturer, can cost as low as $500, McKinley said.


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