Portland Police are investigating a string of thefts of catalytic converters from motor vehicles.

There have been 12 thefts or attempted thefts of catalytic converters reported since Feb. 11, according to David Singer, spokesman for the police department.

Singer said most of the thefts have occurred in dimly lit parking lots with little or no security camera coverage. Most victims told police that their vehicles had been left unattended for several days when the thefts took place. Singer said he could not comment on the methods used to remove the converters.

But Edmunds, an online resource for car buyers, said it only takes a thief a couple of minutes to slide under a vehicle and remove a catalytic converter using a wrench or saw.

Singer said the units contain precious metals including platinum, palladium and titanium. All styles of vehicles are being preyed upon, from box and commercial trucks and vans to hybrid vehicles, Singer said.

Portland experienced a similar rash of catalytic converter thefts in April and May of 2021, also targeting a variety of vehicles. Portland police, citing the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, advised vehicle owners to consider extra deterrents, such as engraving VIN or license information onto converters, or using exhaust spray paint to mark them.

Thieves typically sell the stolen converters to metal recyclers or scrapyards where stolen parts can fetch $50 to $250, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The bureau said in its April 4 blog that catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed across the nation. The thefts seem to be driven by the value of the metals in the converters, which have also skyrocketed. As of December 2020, rhodium was valued at $14,500 per ounce and palladium at $2,336 per ounce. Catalytic converters are designed to convert harmful exhaust generated by the engine into less harmful gases.

Anyone with information about the thefts in Portland is being asked to call the department’s crime tip line 874-8584 or to contact its command center at 874-8575.

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