In 2018, roughly 1,300 catalytic converters were reported stolen nationally. That number rocketed just three years later to over 52,000.
As a result of this disturbing trend, harsher state penalties for catalytic converter theft and significantly tighter restrictions for sellers have been implemented to deter potential thieves.
Yet, the problem doesn't appear to be slowing.
Plug "catalytic converter" into your search engine and see the results yourself. Recent stories include school bus routes postponed in Wisconsin (same for senior citizen buses in Cincinnati) due to catalytic converter thefts, a catalytic converter theft ring from Houston arrested in Dallas, a 248% rise in catalytic converter thefts in Nassau County in New York state, and five men who were arrested for stealing catalytic converters totaling a value of $400,000 from a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.
These new headlines only scratch the surface of this widespread issue that has seemed to reach every zip code in the country.
Catalytic converters essentially minimize the pollution emitted from a vehicle's tailpipe. They're popular with thieves because they can be removed in as little as 30 seconds and then sold as scrap for their precious metals, such as palladium and platinum.
The most targeted are high-clearance vehicles due to the part being more accessible. Hotel parking lots are also popular hunting grounds. But the thieves can strike anywhere, at any time, on any vehicle. This evening, I was watching the local news in Dallas, and one of their stories was about a high school student who had a catalytic converter stolen in broad daylight -- directly in front of the school.
As thieves become more experienced and confident at removing them, they can work deftly enough to attempt such brazen acts.
Keep your vehicle in the garage or a well-lit area if you can. Some have even gone as far as attaching anti-theft devices to their catalytic converters.
In time, perhaps the tougher laws on catalytic converter theft (and the stricter seller restrictions) can begin to cool this suddenly explosive nationwide problem. Though for now, unfortunately, this appears to be the new normal.