The Duluth Police Department has partnered with local auto repair shops on a program aimed at deterring the theft of catalytic converters.

Thieves cut off catalytic converters and sell them for their high-value, precious metals. The police department handled about a dozen reported thefts of catalytic converters in the city from Sept. 1 to Oct. 13, a news release said.

As a way to deter thieves, the police department is using an identification kit to mark catalytic converters. The initiative is a grant-funded program.

"The goal is that once a thief notices that your catalytic converter is marked, they won’t steal it,” said Ben Nordskog, Duluth Police Department auto theft investigator. “If the thief does steal it, this identification mark allows us to link the ID number with the car’s VIN number, letting us track the converter.”

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Nordskog said if the police department comes across a catalytic converter with one of these ID numbers on it, they can trace it back to a victim.

"If we are able to locate a victim, then we are able to charge somebody with being in possession of stolen property," he said.

Nordskog said without a confession or witness to the crime, it's practically impossible to charge someone with stealing a catalytic converter.

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"I have to find a way to prove that a specific item in their possession is legitimately stolen," he said. "It's very easy when somebody is caught with one or even five catalytic converters for us to assume that they're all stolen, but there's no way for me to know definitively, and be able to prove to my county attorney's office that this was stolen."

Nordskog said these ID numbers would help the police to definitely say a catalytic converter was stolen, though the hope is a thief will see the number and decide not to steal it.

To get a catalytic converter identification label and number, vehicle owners should ask a participating auto repair shop to mark their converter during paid vehicle service.

Participating Duluth auto repair shops include:

  • 4th Street Auto, 1118 E. Fourth St., 218-724-8090.
  • Thompson's T-Express, 210 S. 27th Ave. W., 218-722-0005.
  • Allstar Service Center, 329 E. Central Entrance, 218-279-5200.