Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs resident Robbie Shine’s 2011 Subaru Outback sounded nothing like a purring kitten when he went to start it one February morning at a parking area on Rabbit Ears Pass.
“When I started the car, it sounded like an old dune buggy,” said Shine, who had spent the previous day in the backcountry on Hogan Park Trail.
Upon further inspection, it became clear that someone had caused about $1,000 in damage to the Subaru while trying to take the catalytic converter, a car part containing some precious metals that is used to clean the exhaust.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigated the damage, and they would return to the pass in the coming days because of several successful catalytic converter thefts. Between Feb. 18 and 20, one car had its two converters stolen, and the part was taken from four other cars.
Sheriff’s Office Investigator Mike Curzon said someone likely was stealing the converters and selling them for $100 to $200 to people who can salvage the metals inside.
“It’s a big thing on the Front Range,” Curzon said. “These guys can be in and out really quickly. They can be under a vehicle and gone in a minute.”
It’s not surprising the thefts are occurring on the pass because cars are often parked there overnight and there is minimal traffic at certain times, Curzon said. He called it an opportunity crime, where thieves can use a battery-powered saw and remove the part quickly for a quick buck.
“Hopefully, it will not show up here again for a while, but people are looking for easy money, and they don’t care who they rip off,” Curzon said.
Curzon said he was going to alert other local agencies to the thefts, and people should be aware they are occurring.
Curzon said thieves often will target cars and trucks with high ground clearance because it makes it easier to access the converter. Some, but not all, insurance companies will cover the theft, he said.
To ward off would-be thieves, Curzon advised people to park vehicles in well-lit areas and areas that are visible, such as near entrances. Curzon also said some people suggest putting their vehicle identification number on the converter.
“Anything is worth trying,” Curzon said.
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or e-mail mstensland@SteamboatToday.com