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Catalytic Converter Thefts: A Return to Popularity

As if the last two years haven’t had enough problems, it appears to have also caused a drastic increase in catalytic converter thefts. You may wonder what the pandemic and the catalytic converters have in common, but to law enforcement and claims professionals, this is not the first time they’ve seen a spike in the costly crime. The last significant increase was during the recession in 2008. When the economy struggles, crimes go up, and many cities across America have seen an increase in the reported thefts by 300%. Denver has seen a 1600% increase.

You see, catalytic converters are made from three valuable metals: platinum, palladium and rhodium. The prices of these materials are soaring due to an increase in emissions regulations. Rhodium and palladium, in particular, have seen their value increase over that of gold. For thieves, they have to sell the precious loot for junk. Once they’re cut off, they can’t be placed on another car. So the thieves are only making approximately $300 for each part, but it costs insureds and insurers alike anywhere from $1000 to $2500 depending on the car.

Why would a thief commit a crime for such a small dollar value? Well, the answer is easy, just like the act itself. Stealing a catalytic converter doesn’t require expert tools or a lot of time. It can only take 5-10 minutes and a wrench or reciprocating saw. $300 for 10 minutes of work is a pretty good deal for people hurting for money during a pandemic.

These thefts often go unreported per police agencies across the country. Unless an individual has comprehensive coverage, the theft is not covered. Adding that to the fact that it’s a difficult crime to solve, many don’t feel it’s worth calling the police. So how can we protect ourselves and our catalytic converters? If you can’t keep your vehicle inside a garage, it’s almost impossible to protect it. Dealerships, also a known target, are deflating the tires on their most at-risk vehicles. Unfortunately, that’s not a logical solution for private citizens. Some police departments are requiring scrap yards and other recyclers to check photo IDs before buying used catalytic converters. California is taking that one step further and requiring the businesses to take a photograph of the seller to attach to the receipt and keep it for two years. Even though it is a difficult crime to solve, it’s important to report the theft to your local law enforcement agency so they can keep a record of these types of crimes and their cost to the community. Increased numbers can result in an increase of time invested into trying to stop these thefts.

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