Insurance claims for catalytic converter thefts nationwide jumped by 288% in just two years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau said in a new report.
Claims rose from 16,660 in 2020 to 64,701 in 2022. Half of the thefts were in California and Texas, the bureau found.
“This new data is just a snapshot of an underreported crime that affects communities across the nation,” NICB President David Glawe said in a statement. “While a catalytic converter can be removed in just a few minutes, for vehicle owners, the cost is much more than the replacement parts. Victims must find alternate transportation, schedule necessary repairs, and may face loss of work as a result.”
Mandated in the U.S. since 1975, catalytic converters help neutralize harmful gases in engine exhaust that contribute to air pollution, and contain platinum, rhodium, and palladium, rare earth metals that are more valuable than gold, the NICB said.
The shoebox-sized devices are bolted to the underside of cars or trucks as part of the exhaust system. Metal recyclers pay between $50 to $250 for a catalytic converter and up to $800 for one removed from a hybrid vehicle.
It can cost between $1,000 and $3,500 or more to replace a catalytic converter that is stolen, depending on the type of vehicle.
As thefts have skyrocketed, lawmakers across the country have stiffened penalties and put new restrictions on recyclers. The NICB said that 31 bills were enacted in 2022. So far in 2023, 94 bills are being tracked across 39 states, and 12 measures have passed, including one in Florida.
To help prevent the larceny, the bureau urged drivers to park in well-lit areas or in areas monitored by cameras, to install anti-theft guards over the converters, and to etch the vehicle identification number into the device.
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