You may be asking, "What the heck is a catalytic converter and why do I care?"

If you own a vehicle that is newer than the model year 1975, then the EPA requires it has a catalytic converter. The catalytic converter looks similar to a muffler and is welded into the vehicle's exhaust system. It filters out harmful emissions from your vehicle's engine, cutting down pollutants coming out of the exhaust pipe.

Sioux Falls Police have received six reports of catalytic converter thefts over the past weekend, Dakota News Now reports. Police spokesman Sam Clemens said that catalytic converter thefts are on the rise across the nation. He added that Sioux Falls has seen 40 to 50 reports over the last few months, leading to an expensive replacement bill for the vehicle owner.

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Clemens says converter thefts are happening in both residential neighborhoods and in business parking lots. It's easy to tell if you have been ripped off. If your brand new vehicle sounds louder than a top fuel dragster when you start it, then you are probably a victim of catalytic converter theft.

While any vehicle is a target, it's pickups and SUVs, the most popular vehicles in the Sioux Falls area, which is a favorite for thieves because they sit up higher off the ground, giving them more room to work quickly.

So why is the catalytic converter so valuable to thieves that they are willing to climb under your vehicle and cut it off? The typical converter contains rare metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Worldwide demand for these metals has surged in recent years and thieves see your catalytic converter as an easy way to pocket some quick cash.

“It’s a quick and easy thing to do,” Clemens said. “They climb under the car, they have some type of saw, they cut off the catalytic converter, and away they go. I don’t think it takes them very long to do that.”

Thieves convert your converter into cash by taking it to a junkyard or selling it online. Clemens said converters don't have serial numbers so they are difficult to track.

Police don't have any suspects in the Sioux Falls thefts and they ask anyone who sees suspicious activity, including people crawling under vehicles, to call the police.

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