DENVER — Thieves have stolen more than 1,100 catalytic converters at Denver International Airport and the lots around it so far this year – a shocking number made more shocking by this fact: A total of two were swiped in the same area during the three-year span from 2018 through 2020.
Data kept detail those thefts in the Denver Police Department’s District 7, which includes the airport, the rental car lots near it, and some auxiliary parking lots.
It’s so bad that catalytic converter thefts in District 7 accounted for 45.7% of all of those stolen in Denver this year.
Two years ago, those thefts at the airport and surrounding lots accounted for less than 3% of those swiped in the city.
Thieves sell the catalytic converters, which are made with precious metals, for up to $1,000 each.
And the rapid rise of them being swiped at DIA is staggering:
- 2018 – 1
- 2019 – 0
- 2020 – 1
- 2021 – 74
- 2022 – 152
- 2023 – 1,137
Mary Carraher found out what it’s like to be victimized last week after she and her partner returned from a dream vacation to Nova Scotia.
“We were excited to get to the parking lot see the car,” she said of her Toyota Prius. “Nothing was obvious upon first glance.”
They loaded their luggage into the car and climbed in.
“I started the engine, which sounded like a rocket ship ready to blast off,” she said. “And Will immediately said, ‘I think that they've taken your catalytic converter.’”
Now she’s facing a bill north of $2,800 to replace the missing catalytic converter – and she’s hoping her insurance company won’t total her 11-year-old car.
“I've loved that car,” she said. “It's been a great car. It's needed very little work. I love having a hybrid. The mileage has been amazing. So I'm sad.”
It was no surprise that her Prius was targeted – eight of the top 10 most victimized vehicles in District 7 in the past six years have been different years of that model.
Carraher’s car was a 2012 model – currently ranked the second-most targeted car in catalytic thefts in the area of the airport. The 2010 model was the most targeted, according to city data.
Her car wasn’t drivable, so she returned the next day to have it towed.
“They did take it seriously when I tried to drive it out on a tow truck,” Carraher said. “I had to prove that it was my car in order to get it out of the parking lot on the tow truck. And that's reasonable; I would expect that.”
But she wondered if that kind of diligence should be extended to cars while they’re parked at the airport.
Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-1862.