Trevor Larson, a 36-year-old man from Elko New Market, was charged with theft and first-degree property damage for allegedly stealing a catalytic converter — an exhaust emission control device — from underneath a vehicle in Shakopee. The charges come amidst a rash of catalytic converter thefts across the Southwest Metro.
According to the charging documents, officers on Jan. 29 responded to a report from A Scape, a landscaping company in Shakopee, claiming a catalytic converter had been stolen from one of its business trucks.
Officers discovered surveillance video that showed Larson’s vehicle pulling up next to a business truck at 4:26 a.m. Larson could then be seen loading what appeared to be an exhaust pipe into his car.
Several hours later, officers determined that Larson sold a catalytic converter to Metro Metals Recycling in St. Paul. Replacing the converter would cost about $4,000.
According to the search warrant application leading up to the charges, Larson sold nine catalytic converters to Metro Metals Recycling between Jan. 11 and Jan. 29 for a total of $2,173. Some of those pawn dates are similar to the dates of reported catalytic converter thefts in Shakopee, according to the search warrant.
Shakopee Police Captain Jason Arras said the rash of catalytic converter thefts is linked to a specific group and investigators are working on connecting several suspects to get more charges out. Arras said the thefts are most likely drug-related.
The maximum sentence for Larson’s most severe charge is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
A rash of catalytic converter thefts
Shakopee law enforcement has seen at least five reports of catalytic converter thefts since Dec. 1. Police Chief Jeff Tate said suspects most commonly slide under a car and cut the catalytic converters from the vehicle with a battery-operated saw.
The metal components can fetch a decent recycling value, one area police chief said, and the cost to vehicle owners to replace the device can hover in the thousands of dollars.
There have been three catalytic converter thefts since November 2019 in Prior Lake, all in the north side of the city. The first reported theft was from a town home in the Wilds Golf Course where a resident called on Nov. 5, 2019 to report they returned from vacation to find their car missing a converter valued at $500.
The second and third thefts happened months apart at McKenna Crossing, where thieves made off with two catalytic converters from an employee’s vehicle and the converter for the senior living facility’s resident bus.
A McKenna Crossing an employee called the police department on Nov. 26 to report that his catalytic converters, valued at $844, were stolen while he was at work in the facility.
On Jan. 2, McKenna Crossing bus driver Kurt Peterson called the police department and reported that the facility’s bus had also been the victim of a converter theft. He said it looked like someone had used a power saw to remove the part. The Prior Lake police report estimates the damage to the vehicle came in around $1,000. Peterson said the bus has been repaired and is back on the road, though now it’s parked in “a much more visible part of the parking lot.”
Two catalytic converters were also reported stolen from vehicles at Wolf Motors in Jordan on Nov. 27.
“It’s something that doesn’t take a whole lot of sophistication,” Prior Lake Police Commander Brad Cragoe said. “It’s an opportunity crime.”
Cragoe said residents should park their cars in a garage if they are able and leave a house light on their vehicle if they do have to leave it parked outside overnight. He said if residents see anyone suspicious around their or their neighbors cars they can always call the department to come check things out.