TOPEKA (KSNT) – Topeka’s City Council will soon consider a new ordinance to combat catalytic converter thefts.

Those behind the proposal hope it will give police the tools they need to stop what’s becoming one of the most common and expensive property crimes in recent history. Topeka police say the city has seen a steady increase of catalytic converter thefts over the last five years. In the last two weeks of 2022, Topeka saw an additional 24 catalytic converter thefts.

A catalytic converter is a device installed in the exhaust system of a motor vehicle that uses a catalyst to convert pollutant gases into 47 less harmful gases. It contains precious metals that can be resold at scrap yards for easy money.

Police say multiple factors are behind the spike in thefts. The say the two biggest problems are the increased value of precious metals within the part and the difficulty of arresting and prosecuting those who traffic stolen parts.

These thefts often happen at night when no witnesses are around and occur within a matter of minutes or even seconds. Once a catalytic convert is removed from a vehicle, it’s nearly impossible to identify where it came from because the parts aren’t usually marked. Police say with so few tools to combat these thefts, the cases just can’t be solved.

That’s why police are encouraging Topeka city leaders to adopt an ordinance modeled after one the City of Wichita passed last year. The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to possess, accept, process, store, hold, keep, receive, reuse or collect catalytic converters.

There would be exceptions. A person would be allowed to possess a cut catalytic converter with proof of ownership of vehicle from which the part was removed, a bill of sale for vehicle or part and contact information for the seller.

Proof of work or service order requiring removal of the part, and a letter from Topeka police allowing possession of the part would also be required. Recyclers and precious metal dealers would be exempt from these rules.

Stealing a catalytic converter under the new ordinance would be a misdemeanor offense. On first conviction, a person would face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The Topeka City Council will discuss the proposal on Tuesday at their weekly meeting. No action is expected to be taken.