Catalytic converter theft on the rise in the Washington, DC areaJuly 12, 2022
Over the past few years, catalytic converter theft has been on the rise in the Washington, DC area. Catalytic converters are being stolen for the precious metals they contain which have become increasingly valuable with supply chain issues and shortage of commodities.
To give you a sense of the growth of this issue: In 2019, there were insurance claims for 3,389 stolen catalytic converters according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). That jumped a whopping 325% to a reported 14,433 claims in 2020. Those numbers have likely only increased since then.
Why are people stealing catalytic converters?
Catalytic converters use precious metals to filter noxious gasses out of emissions. These include rhodium, palladium, and platinum. Tiny amounts of each are used, but it doesn’t take much to make it worthwhile to thieves. Rhodium cost $14,000 per ounce on July 12th, 2022. That makes it a LOT more valuable than gold which cost about $1,740 per ounce on that same day. The NICB reports that recyclers will pay between $50 and $250 per catalytic converter. Stealing them can take just a few minutes with tools anyone can buy at a hardware store.
Where are catalytic converters stolen?
The quick answer is pretty much everywhere. Because it’s so easy to remove them from a vehicle, it can be done when they are parked in a street, a driveway, or an open garage.
Which cars are most at risk of catalytic converters being stolen?
Larger vehicles with higher clearance such as pick-up trucks are at higher risk because, according to the NICB, they provide easier access. However, it can happen to any car. In the DC area, Priuses have been especially targeted because they actually contain two catalytic converters. In Montgomery County’s Takoma park, in 2021 through September all of the catalytic converter thefts were from Priuses according to this article in the Washington Post. Hybrids have lower emissions than pure combustion engine vehicles which means that their converters see less wear which makes them more valuable.
In this two part series, we’re bringing this issue to light and will next share ways to prevent this from happening to you and what to do in the case that it does.