Eden Prairie police warn of sharp increase in catalytic converter thefts

The city recorded eight catalytic converter thefts in 2019. In 2020, the city had 55 thefts.

Eden Prairie Police Department/Facebook

Eden Prairie experienced a nearly 600% jump in the theft of catalytic converters from 2019 to 2020, and so far this year the city is on track to triple last year’s number of thefts.

The Eden Prairie Police Department sent out a warning to residents Monday stating that the city recorded eight catalytic converter thefts in 2019. In 2020, the city had 55 thefts. From January to February of this year, 28 catalytic converters have been stolen — over half the number stolen last year in just the first two months of the year.

The converters are being stolen from both passenger and commercial vehicles, the alert said.

A catalytic converter is an emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants created in internal combustion engines and converts them into less-toxic pollutants. The passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970 led to federal and state laws that now require the devices on nearly all vehicles. Converters are typically found beneath the vehicle as part of the exhaust system, and they contain precious metals that are trading at record-high rates, fueling the increase in the thefts.

Over the weekend, two St. Paul men were arrested in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, when police interrupted them attempting to steal catalytic converters from vehicles at an automotive business around 9 p.m. Saturday.

Tou Lor and Choua Vang

Tou Lor, 35, and Choua Vang, 37, were both charged Monday in Anoka County Court. Charges state that police were called to a business on the 8400 block of University Avenue Northeast on a possible theft in progress of catalytic converters. The 911 caller said that he observed two men on surveillance video in the back of the lot.

When police arrived, they heard what sounded like a Sawzall running or metal being cut and spotted shadows near the vehicles behind the building, the complaint said. Police observed a large hole in a fence at the back of the business. When officers approached, two men began running from the area and one was carrying a red Sawzall in his hands.

After both suspects were apprehended, police found a vehicle with its catalytic converter cut off and a converter on the ground nearby. Police also found a backpack containing several items, including tools, Sawzall blades, gloves, safety glasses, trash bags, and a recently issued citation in Vang’s name in the backpack.

The pair eventually admitted to police that they took the catalytic converter and that Lor threw it to the ground while running from police.

Lor and Vang each face felony counts of theft and possession of burglary tools. Both suspects remain in custody and are scheduled to make their first court appearance on Tuesday.

Late last month a Minneapolis man admitted he was caught “red handed” while trying to steal catalytic converters from a Blaine automotive business.

Matthew Ryan Jacoboski

On Feb. 22, police arrived at a business on Baltimore Street Northeast to find Matthew Ryan Jacoboski underneath a vehicle trying to saw out a catalytic converter with a cordless saw.

Jacoboski, 34, was charged with first-degree damage to property and possession of burglary tools in the case, both felonies. Jacoboski was conditionally released with zero bail required by Anoka County Judge James A. Cunningham, Jr., following his initial court appearance, despite having several other recent felony convictions.

Alpha News reported last month that tow trucks were being used in the Twin Cities to quickly remove vehicles from neighborhoods in the middle of the night so their catalytic converters could be stolen.

Eden Prairie police said they are increasing patrols in areas where the thefts have occurred. They recommend that people take steps to prevent the converter thefts by doing things like engraving converters with a vehicle’s VIN or license plate number and parking in well-lit areas or close to building entrances.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.