Catalytic converter thefts have increased in the Billngs area in recent years.
There are no identification marks or numbers to show they were stolen.
In the past two weeks, Billings police have started a new program to put marks on these exhaust systems to alert recycling companies and possibly also to try to deter thieves.
sergeant. Nate West described how a vehicle sounds if a catalytic converter is stolen and missing.
“You start your vehicle like when you hear a backfire,” he said. “It almost sounds like a gunshot, like one of those loud exhaust mufflers. You sure know something’s wrong.”
West says they are stolen for precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium.
The police department’s plan is to have auto shops stenciled Billings “Stolen Call 911 Billings PD” on the catalytic converter with bright-colored paint.
“Someone is crawling under a vehicle with the intention of taking this, they see it might deter them,” West said.
Catalytic converter thefts began to increase in 2020, with police receiving reports of 60 thefts within months.
“2020 is when we really noticed. You talk like five, six times about these thefts happening,” West said.
Police say thefts increased at the end of 2021 and with the wintry weather decreased at the start of 2022.
“A simple cut of the exhaust pipe on either side of the catalytic converter, they get the part they want and they move on to the next one,” West said.
Now about 50 auto shops have agreed to help with the stencil.
“The Billiings Police Department has asked us to help out,” said Jared McDermott, general manager of LP Anderson Point S Tire. “We are happy to help in any way we can.”
McDermott says it’s much easier to get help from an auto shop than to put on your own paint.
“We’re already under the vehicle and we can do it very quickly,” McDermott said. “You have to use a very special paint for the catalytic converters because they get very hot. So we have a high temperature exhaust paint that actually bakes on and so it’s very difficult to remove it later.”
“If we can make an impact, I think we’re ready to go as far as we can to curb the problem,” West said.
More information is available on the Billings Police Crime Prevention Center Facebook page.
West also suggested calling the center at (406) 247-8590.