La Crosse police warn of rash of catalytic converter thefts

Toyota Priuses are popular targets in statewide trend that also has hit Eau Claire and Madison
Catalytic Converters
The converters are popular targets for thieves because they are easily accessible and removable. (La Crosse police photo)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse Police Department is alerting residents about a flurry of thefts of catalytic converters — specifically from Toyota Prius vehicles — because they bring a pretty price at scrap yards.
The department fielded four complaints just this week about converters swiped from Priuses, according to a department news release.
It’s a statewide trend, with several thefts also reported in Madison this year, according to the release. Eau Claire police also have investigated several cases of converter thievery, according to media reports.
Thieves target the converters because they contain expensive metals and they are relatively easy to steal, according to, an online resource for automotive information.
The federal government mandated the converters for all U.S. cars and trucks in 1975 to convert pollutants into less harmful emissions. Precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold are used as the catalyst.
Replacement costs for the converters can range from $945 to $2,475, including parts and labor, according to the Carbrain replacement parts website.
The telltale sign that somebody stripped your converter from under your car is that it probably will sound more like a Harley-Davidson than a purring machine when you start it.
La Crosse police offer the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Park in well-lighted areas.
  • Keep your vehicle in the garage with the door closed.
  • Install a custom alarm system.
  • If you see someone you don’t know tampering with a friend’s or neighbor’s car, call the department’s non-emergency number of (608) 782-7575.