Incoming Sheriff discusses rising catalytic converter thefts in the Las Vegas Valley

Incoming Clark County Sheriff, Kevin McMahill, says he wants to work to help prevent catalytic converter thefts in the valley. “It’s a terrible crime,” he said.
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 8:21 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Incoming Clark County Sheriff, Kevin McMahill, says he wants to work to help prevent catalytic converter thefts in the valley.

“It’s a terrible crime,” said McMahill.

On Primary Election night, FOX5 asked McMahill about rising thefts.

“If you’re the victim of having your catalytic converter cut off, it costs a lot of money to fix. It takes a lot of time. People’s transportation, they don’t have it. It impacts you. And we’ve got to do a better job of it,” said McMahill.

McMahill discussed some prevention measures.

“Part of the issue with catalytic converter theft is that you could be walking down the street with a catalytic converter and there’s no way for me to actually tell that that catalytic converter went to that car. Number one is, we need federal legislation to stamp them with the VIN number,” said McMahill.

Some auto shops will also etch VIN numbers into a customer’s converter and mark it with bright heat-resistant paint to help identify that it’s stolen. Area law enforcement agencies say that will help tie a suspect to a theft and with prosecuting the suspect.

McMahill wants to know where stolen converters are ending up.

“We know why they’re being stolen. It’s for the rare earth material that’s inside of them. But how do we get to find out who is taking that rare earth material? Where are they taking these things and then go after those businesses as well so we reduce the demand for it,” said McMahill.

It is not illegal for scrap yards to buy converters locally. One operator told FOX5 he won’t buy them from people because he assumes most of them are stolen and doesn’t want to get in trouble.

Another scrap yard told FOX5 it won’t ask customers questions about where they got the converter. They don’t want front-line clerks to be placed in dangerous situations of someone getting upset over those types of questions. Metro police have previously said some scrap yards have been helpful in identifying people selling stolen converters.

“I think there’s a legislative fix to that so they can be held criminally liable for taking those kinds of things. It’s no different really than the copper theft issue that we’ve been dealing with for so long. Again unidentified, no number, those kinds of things. We have to make it very uncomfortable for the people that are receiving these stolen things as well,” said McMahill.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department just released some new theft numbers to FOX5 News. The department says there were 852 reported thefts from January to July 6, 2021. The number jumped to 1,411 from January to July 6, 2022. However, officers have previously said actual theft numbers could be ten times higher because of thefts that go unreported. LVMPD encourages people to always report a theft, which can help them spot any possible trends in certain areas.

Along with VIN etching, there are wire cable cages people can have installed around their converters, or metal plates, to prevent theft.