December 3, 2022


Born to perform

Thefts of this valuable car part have gotten so bad that Congress is trying to fix it

4 min read


A treasure chest of valuable metals that sits underneath every auto has sparked a rash of thefts. Now legislators in Washington and statehouses are fighting back again.

Thefts of catalytic converters — an antipollution automobile portion laden with platinum, palladium and rhodium — have exploded due to the fact the pandemic started, fueled by a surge in the price of those metals. Robbers manufactured off with 12 periods as numerous catalytic converters, which sit exposed underneath most cars, in 2021 as they did in 2019, according to details from the National Insurance plan Criminal offense Bureau, an business that tracks these thefts.

More than 3 dozen states have launched legislation to beat catalytic converter theft, in accordance to NICB’s converter theft laws tracker, with 20 states enacting the payments into regulation.

In Washington, D.C., legislators in the Residence launched a monthly bill in January to tackle the thefts. The Blocking Vehicle Recycling Theft Act would call for new motor vehicles stamp VIN numbers on catalytic converters, codify federal penalties for thieving the element and need report-trying to keep for those who are acquiring and marketing converters.

Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., who launched the monthly bill, informed NBC News in an e-mail that these methods will discourage black sector product sales and give law enforcement much more applications to tackle the thiefs.

The invoice, with a bipartisan array of co-sponsors, was sent to two committees shortly following its introduction. Baird explained he’s hopeful the invoice will make it to the Property ground and that he’s having the steps to “move the needle in the ideal direction.”

“Americans have ample to fear about,” Baird mentioned, “Spending their difficult-earned paycheck to substitute a stolen automobile part should not be just one of them.”

Driving with out a converter is unlawful in some states, and replacing one is expensive. David Glawe, NICB president and CEO, pegged the selling price of a replacement catalytic converter at about $3,000, up from $1,000 in latest several years.

“Crime’s a company, and organization is really great in this house,” explained Glawe, whose firm functions to overcome insurance policies fraud and criminal offense. “There’s a great deal of dollars to be produced. And there’s extremely little deterrent.”

The uncooked resources in the converters fetch as substantially as $240 from scrap sellers, in accordance to Baird. The value of these metals enhanced as much as fourfold throughout the pandemic.

And for a criminal offense that normally takes less than a moment to execute, and can be dedicated with a $100 noticed acquired at any Household Depot, the rewards outweigh the pitfalls.

Catalytic converter thefts are property crimes, which means those caught may perhaps get minimal far more than a slap on the wrist, Glawe mentioned. In Denver, that means criminals caught thieving converters will deal with misdemeanor costs if the converter is well worth much less than $2,000 or felony fees if it’s worthy of a lot more. 

So considerably this yr 12 men and women have been arrested, a Denver Law enforcement Department spokesperson reported.

Isabella Carlson’s catalytic converter was stolen in wide daylight from the parking ton of the Wisconsin faculty her partner attends. Soon after the pair obtained their car back again — with an anti-theft cage installed all-around the converter — her husband observed there were folks keeping energy equipment analyzing cars in that exact same parking whole lot, she mentioned.

“The police just said, ‘Yeah, this is going on a ton,’” Carlson stated.

Carlson, who life in Waukesha, missing her job at a grocery store as a result of the theft. “I could not get all around,” she mentioned. “My partner couldn’t get to school some days.”

The NICB advises automobile proprietors to park in garages if probable and get a cage put in all-around their car’s converter, like the one Carlson experienced put in on her Hyundai Tucson.

Some of these thefts have turned tragic: In Houston, an off-obligation sheriff’s deputy died after a shootout with individuals who have been seeking to steal his truck’s catalytic converter, authorities reported in April.

Nick Leppert moved to Chicago from California previous thirty day period and experienced been there no extra than 72 hours when the catalytic converter was stolen from their Toyota Prius.

Leppert, whose pronouns are they and them, didn’t find the theft until eventually they received into the car or truck and turned it on. Leppert knew the loud, growling sound — this was the third time in 10 months that the portion experienced been stolen from their motor vehicle.

“I was loaded with despair, like, not yet again,” Leppert mentioned. “This is a preposterous amount of money of moments for it to come about to just one individual.”

Leppert drives a single of the automobiles most focused for its converters. Carfax facts shows Priuses are the sixth-most-stolen-from autos. Ford F-collection vans are No. 1.

Leppert, who moved to Chicago to be with their companion, claimed they are heading to become a a person-motor vehicle family.

“I’m only having it fixed so that I can sell my automobile because I don’t want to go by means of this yet again,” Leppert stated.

This tale was originally posted on


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