LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) – Denver Police told FOX31 that there were 500 reported catalytic converters stolen in the first three months of this year alone. That’s more than five every day.

Denver Police are warning the public that it’s not just a costly nuisance but could be dangerous as well. 

Thieves are starting to post an armed lookout to intercept anyone who catches them in the act.

Since March 2019, there have been 135 reported violent confrontations during catalytic converter thefts, or attempted thefts.

Police do not recommend confronting these thieves like a Lakewood man did because if they do have a weapon things could turn violent.

Brian Derry and Sarah Schroeder were driving back from Palisade on Sunday afternoon when they came across a man who was under a car in their neighborhood.

“I was driving. [Brian] was in the passenger seat. He looks over here. He said, ‘stop,’ they’re trying to steal the cat,” said Sarah Schroeder. “So I pull over, stop. He jumps out and runs over.”

Derry being a repo man said he’s used to these confrontations.

Sarah Schroeder quickly snapped photos of the suspect’s car, capturing images of a torn temporary tag on the back of the gold-colored SUV.

“He didn’t get away with anything,” said Brian Derry.

Surveillance video also captured the confrontation. You can see a man grabbing things from the back seat of the SUV and then getting out of sight [presumably to get under the car].  Then you see Derry walk up and the gold SUV drive away.  

Luckily, the encounter didn’t turn violent, but Denver Police are getting reports that more of these thieves are carrying weapons and working in teams. 

“You never know who’s gonna pull out a weapon, pull out a gun or just go crazy. So it is a concern of mine. He’s a little braver than I am and I don’t recommend confronting them necessarily,” said Schroeder. “You know, he handled it and scared the guy off. But yeah, it is. It can be scary. It can be really scary.”

Brian Derry doesn’t drive this car.  

“This is a vehicle that I donated to my neighbor. It’s destined to be artwork up here on the wall behind us,” said Derry. “It is the principle you know, you don’t take property that doesn’t belong to you.”   

As a repo man, he is familiar with the tools.  

“Basically within two minutes he had backed up here, jack the car up, and then another minute and a half he would have had the converter off. This is generally what they use. This is my saw. It’s a cordless Sawzall. They get underneath there and within a minute they’ve sliced two pipes and it drops out and they’ve gone with it,” Derry said. “It’s very quick and easy money.”  

“Something needs to be done because if they’re just going to be able to get away with it, they’re going to keep doing it,” Schroeder said.   

They suggest there be a limit on how many converters someone can cash in on each year and the recyclers keep a record.

Now, Denver Police say the best thing to do if you catch someone stealing is to be a good witness, try to remember details, and then report it.