- Between 2018 and 2022, there was a more than 1000% increase in catalytic converter thefts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
- A black market has developed and states are tightening laws on the resale of coins.
- In the background, an increasing number of people are being killed trying to steal the coins.
Amid an alarming rise in catalytic converter thefts over the past five years, more people accused of trying to scour the valuable parts are being killed in the process.
Replacing the part can cost over a thousand dollars, but thefts also cost people their lives. Over the past few months, several people have been run over or crushed to death while trying to steal the coins, according to local reports across the country.
Since 2018, there has been a steady increase in thefts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
That year, almost 1,300 thefts were the subject of an insurance claim, a figure that increased by 325% the following year. In 2020, there were just under 14,500 flights. The data does not take into account flights for which an insurance claim has not been filed.
People are looking for a more precious metal than gold
Between 2018 and 2022, there was a 1,215% increase in thefts, according to the NCIB. The part helps cars reduce the amount of toxic and polluting gases emitted by each vehicle’s engine. Thefts have largely increased in times of financial hardship and economic uncertainty, according to the NCIB.
A black market has also developed where platinum, palladium and rhodium, the precious metals used in the coin, are harvested. The price of rhodium per troy ounce has reached up to eight times the price of gold since 2019, according to CalMatters.
The theft of the part can cost drivers between $1,000 and $3,000 without the help of insurance, according to the NICB. Preventing theft is also an expensive measure, with Cat Shields – a mechanism that blocks access to the converter – costing between $200 and $500 on average.
To steal the coins, thieves must get under the vehicles, often supporting the cars with a jack, leaving them in danger.
Tragedy strikes more often as thefts increase
In February 2023, a Palmdale, California woman was sleeping in her Ford Excursion when a man went under her car and began attempting to saw through her converter, she told authorities, according to the Los Angeles Times. .
When she awoke to the noise, she started her car and backed out of the parking space unaware that someone was under her, killing the man, according to the report.
A few weeks later in Georgia, a man was crushed to death while trying to remove a catalytic converter from a car at a dealership with a jack. The jack lost the support of the car, which fell on the man and he was found dead the next morning, according to WSAV3.
In Merced, Calif., a man was similarly killed in March 2022, after a vehicle crashed into him as he attempted to steal a converter box, per ABC30.
In April 2022, a Sacramento man was run over while trying to steal a catalytic converter, according to Fox2, and the year before, in Anaheim, a man was killed after the Toyota Prius he was trying to lift a converter from. when an auto repair shop ran into him, according to KIRO7.
States are introducing a slew of new laws to stem the rise in theft
In recent years, states have passed new laws to crack down on rising theft, in an effort to weed out middlemen like unlicensed junkyards where catalytic converters can be pawned without a trace, usually for $50 to $250, according to the NICB.
At least 35 states have passed laws or introduced legislation aimed at halting the rise in theft, with California accounting for at least 37% of theft, according to NICB data.
There are at least three new laws in effect, including one that narrows the circles of parts sellers and resellers to owners, licensed auto dismantlers and repair shops. Another measure requires buyers to register additional layers of documentation such as the converter’s original car VIN number, as well as information about the car’s make, year and model, according to CalMatters.