Catalytic converter thefts, which saw a significant surge during the pandemic, have now declined by half this year

  • Business
  • Sunday, 05 November 2023 15:18

Catalytic converter thefts, which saw a significant surge during the pandemic, have now declined by half this year. Data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau reveals a noticeable decrease in the average number of catalytic converters stolen each month compared to the peak in 2022 through the first nine months of this year.

Several factors may be contributing to this decline, including falling metal prices and increased legal enforcement. Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which experienced a significant increase in value from 2020 to 2022. However, their prices have since dropped, with rhodium's price falling to one-sixth of its 2021 peak.

Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., pointed out that metal prices were a major driver of converter thefts, as higher metal prices made them more attractive to thieves. However, the converter theft business has faced pressure from both sides in 2023. Declining metal prices and increased law enforcement scrutiny, along with tougher penalties from new laws, have made converter theft less appealing for criminals.

Law enforcement agencies have made significant busts of converter theft rings, such as an $8.2 million ring in Pennsylvania's Bucks County in June. This has led to an immediate decrease in thefts in the area. At the federal level, the Justice Department also announced the bust of a $545 million national catalytic converter crime ring in November 2022.

Many states have responded to the issue by enacting laws to combat thefts, with 21 states passing such laws this year, and 19 others introducing similar legislation. Additionally, federal legislation introduced by Rep. Baird in January aims to require converters to be stamped with their origin ID numbers and codify thefts as criminal offenses.

While state and local governments have implemented various laws since 2020, their effectiveness was mixed until metal prices began to fall. For example, Texas enacted a law requiring thumbprints and proof of purchase for catalytic converter sellers, but converter thefts still reached new heights in 2022. Thieves often skirted the laws by stealing in Texas and selling in other states with weaker regulations.

In summary, a combination of factors, including declining metal prices and increased legal enforcement, has led to a significant reduction in catalytic converter thefts, marking a positive trend in curbing this criminal activity.