One of Utah’s newest task forces – the Crimes Against the Statewide Economy (C.A.S.E.) task force – was organized during the 2020 Legislative Session (H.B. 461) to address Utah’s growing fight against property theft. Reports continued to emerge reporting the state of Utah, Salt Lake City in particular, as one of the highest ranked locations for property crime, specifically porch pirates (theft of delivered packages), retail theft, and catalytic converter theft.
Catalytic converters are stolen for the precious metals contained within – palladium, rhodium, platinum, titanium, and other materials – and can be sold for as much as $400 per converter. Thieves crawl underneath vehicles in parking lots, parking garages, and residential driveways and use metal saws to remove the device. Sadly, however, these converters are a crucial part of a vehicle’s emission system, costing an average of $1,800 to replace and rendering a vehicle useless without it.
In 2020 and 2021, the newly formed C.A.S.E. Task Force began ‘Operation Urban Mining,’ a massive joint effort to fight the rise in catalytic converter theft. While the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles has been a growing problem nationwide, the theft of catalytic converters in Utah alone has risen nearly 600% in the past two years.
‘Operation Urban Mining’ combined the efforts of the Utah Attorney General’s Investigative Division, the Utah Department of Public Safety State Bureau / Investigations, the Sandy City Police Department, Unified Police Department, West Jordan Police Department, and West Valley City Police Department.
As the operation went on, investigators uncovered many legitimate scrap metal and recyclable dealers were not following Utah laws or best practices. The also discovered that many illegal catalytic converter transactions were taking place in the parking lots of large stores and strip malls.
All research and investigative efforts culminated in a multi-jurisdiction sting operation that included undercover law enforcement officers, scrap metal dealers and recyclers, and thieves attempting to sell stolen converters online. The sting operation resulted in 3 arrests, 6 criminal warnings, 13 criminal violations, 13 scrap metal dealer audits, and 124 catalytic converters seized as evidence. See the images attached to this post of the confiscated converters.
While Utah’s efforts to continue combatting additional property theft are ongoing, ‘Operation Urban Mining’ has been seen as a success. Thanks to the efforts of the AG Investigative Team, the AG’s C.A.S.E. Task Force, and other law enforcement entities, Utah is becoming a safer place for residents and businesses every single day.
See the links below for local media coverage of ‘Operation Urban Mining’: