The jump in catalytic converter thefts since the pandemic continues and could worsen.
Statistics compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a group focused on preventing and prosecuting insurance crime, show theft of “cats” skyrocketed 1,215% from 2019 and 2022.
The situation may worsen because due to the war in Ukraine, Russia could limit exports of palladium, one of the precious metals used to make catalytic converters. Russia supplies about 40% of the world’s palladium, according to Moody’s Analytics.
NICB has partnered with businesses to hold vehicle identification number etching events across the country in order to help prevent the thefts. San Diego finance-and-insurance company Auto Prime Financial Services introduced a product last year that marks converters with VINs and triggers reimbursements for stolen devices.
California is a hot spot for “cat” thefts, with 37% of U.S. theft claims, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the state’s Eastern District, due to its higher emissions standards. The devices, part of a vehicle’s emissions system, convert polluting emissions into safe ones. Hybrid models have two converters, whose parts get less wear, making them more valuable and attractive to thieves, the NICB says.
In November, the U.S. Justice Department worked with local and state authorities to bust a national network of catalytic converter thieves.
A congressional bill supported by the National Automobile Dealers Association has been reintroduced to fight the thefts. The Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act, or PART, would require new vehicles’ VINs to be stamped on their converters, making stolen parts traceable, and create a grants program to pay for marking of existing vehicles.