Casino Parking Lots Among Vulnerable Sites for Catalytic Converter Thefts

Posted on: April 29, 2022, 11:19h. 

Last updated on: April 29, 2022, 12:29h.

Vehicles parked in casino lots are being targeted by thieves looking for catalytic converters. Casinos in Mississippi and Louisiana have recently been targeted. But Las Vegas casinos are also at risk.

The underside of a Toyota Prius with a catalytic converter in the middle
The underside of a Toyota Prius with a catalytic converter in the middle, pictured above. Increasingly, catalytic converters are getting stolen from casino parking lots and elsewhere. (Image: KPBS)

On Thursday, two suspects were arrested at Mississippi’s Riverwalk Casino, according to Magnolia State Live, a statewide online news service. Inside their tow truck were several catalytic converters. Police believe at least one converter was stolen from a vehicle at nearby Ameristar Casino. Tools, such as saws, were also in the truck.

A passenger, Jerry Coleman, 58, of Jackson, Miss., was apprehended in the parking lot of Riverwalk Casino. The driver, Cullen Spann, 44, also of Jackson, was apprehended at Bally’s Casino. He walked there from Riverwalk.

In another incident, three suspects were arrested for attempted catalytic converter theft at Louisiana’s Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino on April 22, according to KATC, a local TV station. The incident also took place at a casino parking lot.

Officers arrested two juveniles and an adult, Jaquan Rosette, 23. One juvenile was charged with attempted theft. The other juvenile was also charged with attempted theft and possession of drugs. Rosette was charged with attempted theft and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of juveniles.

Las Vegas At Risk

The US has seen a sharp increase in catalytic converter thefts, Automotive News reported this month. Many of these thefts have occurred in Southern Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).

LVMPD data provided to Casino.org revealed a jump in these thefts at all locations, not just casinos. Catalytic converter thefts have nearly doubled from last year.

  • Between Jan. 1 and April 8, there were 784 thefts of catalytic converters.
  • Between Jan. 1 and April 8, 2021, there were 425 thefts of catalytic converters.

There were 1,934 thefts of converters during all of last year, the LVMPD reported.

Nationally, there were 14,433 US catalytic converter thefts during 2020 at all locations, according to the most recent available data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. That is about four times the amount seen in 2019. In 2018, there were 1,298 converter thefts.

Profitable Metals

Catalytic converters are part of the exhaust system and help reduce the contaminants emitted from the system.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals that can be melted down, making them very profitable,” a spokesperson for the LVMPD confirmed to Casino.org. “This is likely why they are targeted by thieves.”

Precious metals found in these converters often include platinum, palladium, and rhodium, according to online news reports.

AAA spokesperson Aldo Vazquez further confirmed the theft of a catalytic converter can take place relatively quickly.

“If someone has access and the right equipment, it only takes a few minutes to remove a catalytic converter, which is very expensive to replace,” Vazquez told Casino.org. Often, a replacement will cost more than $1,000, he adds.

SUVs and other tall vehicles are among the most vulnerable vehicles for converter theft. When removed, the vehicle will make a loud noise if the engine is on, State Farm spokesperson Myles C. Mitchom, told Casino.org.

Casino parking lots or parking garages are particularly vulnerable to thefts or other crimes. One reason is that they tend to be poorly lit, Casino.org has previously reported.

Bill Proposed in Congress

To combat this trend, a legislative proposal was introduced in January by US Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind.

Called the Preventing Auto Recycling Thefts (PART) Act, HR 6394 would force VIN numbers to be stamped onto catalytic converters of new vehicles, Automotive News said. There would also be improved records on those who purchase catalytic converters, and the bill would classify catalytic converter thefts as criminal offenses, Automotive News reported.

Earlier this month, the National Automobile Dealers Association identified the bill as a priority. It has yet to be voted on by Congress.

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