While catalytic converter theft is not a new crime, we have seen this crime trend grow exponentially in the Valley over the last few years. In 2019, the City of Phoenix reported 70 catalytic converter thefts. Last year, that number jumped to over 4,700 reports, an increase of about 6,000%. This year, catalytic converter thefts are expected to surpass last year’s record and reach a peak in September and October.
What is a catalytic converter and why is it so valuable?
A catalytic converter is a device in your vehicle that uses valuable precious metals to convert toxic and pollutant gases that comes out of your engine into less harmful ones. In recent years, the price of these precious metals has skyrocketed, making it a very profitable crime.
Like most crimes, catalytic converter theft is based around opportunity as it only takes a few minutes to cut a converter from beneath a vehicle. Discovering your catalytic converter has been stolen will be obvious, as your car will emit a loud noise from where the device was removed. Not all vehicles are targeted equally, certain vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, Ford F-150, and Honda Accord are more likely to be targeted. While thieves who sell these converters may only get about $150 to $300 for them, it can cost a victim anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 to replace.
What can I do to keep my car safe?
The best way to mitigate your risk and avoid becoming a victim is to be diligent about where you park. Make sure that your vehicle is parked in a well-lit and populated area where it could be difficult for thieves to get underneath your vehicle. If your car is parked in an uncovered space at home, having a camera that faces your vehicle could be useful in the event you need to report a theft. You can also have plates and guards installed underneath a car to protect the converter.
For law enforcement and prosecuting agencies, catalytic converter thefts pose a unique challenge where once the converter is cut from the vehicle there is no easy way to prove it has been stolen and identify the victim. Etching your catalytic converter with the last five characters of your VIN and license plate as well spray painting it a bright color not only helps deter theft, but also aids in the prosecution of these cases by being able to link the stolen device to the victim.
MCAO wants to be proactive about preventing catalytic converter thefts not only through education but also by partnering with local law enforcement agencies and Midas Auto Repair to provide Maricopa County residents free catalytic converter etching. Recently, we had a successful event with the Tempe Police Department where almost 300 vehicles had their catalytic converters etched and spray-painted bright orange.
We are currently planning more etching events throughout the county. You can stay informed about upcoming events by following us on Twitter, Facebook or NextDoor. Keep in mind that not all vehicles need to be etched as some models do not have a converter that is easily accessible and will likely not be stolen. We would like to thank the Tempe Police Department and Midas for their efforts in helping MCAO combat this crime!