INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been an ongoing problem for years.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officials say catalytic converter thefts have seen an uptick in recent months, leaving Hoosiers to deal with costly repairs.

“99% of the cars that are on the road today have a catalytic converter on them,” said IMPD Commander Ron Hicks. “They’re not hard to steal.”

Hicks said catalytic converters contain precious metals, which are often targeted by thieves looking to turn them in for cash. Hicks said profits can be hundreds of dollars, depending on the converter and the type of vehicle it came off of.

“It’s something that we’ve been looking at and dealing with for years on our district,” said Hicks. “We’ve often thought about what can we do to try to help things a little bit.”

On Wednesday, IMPD is teaming up with Take 5 Oil Change to “make a mark” in preventing similar thefts. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., anyone can drive to the 3640 S. East Street location to get their catalytic converter marked for free as part of the “Paint and Protect” program.

Marking catalytic converters is a method already happening across the country, and IMPD is looking to try it in the Indianapolis area.

The process, which only takes a few minutes, includes covering the converter in a bright, high-temperature spray paint. After it’s painted, the vehicle’s license plate number is etched onto the converter.

Hicks said the tactic is meant to deter thieves and help identify a converter if it gets stolen, a problem police have run into before.

“Normally, we can’t tell where they came from because they’re not marked with a VIN, or a serial number or anything. One catalytic converter looks like another one,” said Hicks. “With us putting the license plate number on it, then I can tell your catalytic converter from a million other ones that are on the same make and model of your type of car.”

Take 5 Owner Elliot Smith said it’s a team effort to help address the overall problem.

“The police by themselves are not going to be able to take care of all of it, but with local businesses, with us, and others working on vehicles, we can keep an eye out,” he said.

Hicks said the marking won’t stop catalytic converter thefts all together, but it does play a role in finding ways to prosecute these cases and give Hoosiers peace of mind.

“This is kind of like the first phase,” said Hicks. “Where we’d like to go after this is maybe partner with local repair shops and oil change facilities to have them maybe offer this as a free addition. If you come in for an oil change, ‘hey, would you like us to mark your catalytic converter for you while you’re in here today?’, and have them just offer that as a free service to their customers. So that way, we can get many, many more marked than we can do in a one-time event, like we’re going to do on Wednesday.”