Thefts of catalytic converters, a key part of the emission control systems of internal combustion vehicles, are on the rise. The devices, which are installed not only on passenger vehicles but also on buses, motorcycles, and commercial trucks, use valuable metals to reduce pollutants emanating from the engine. Replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost a passenger vehicle owner up to $3,000. These thefts have generated interest among policymakers in what role the federal government can play in addressing the issue. Some congressional offices are examining how existing federal motor vehicle theft statutes might be amended to address this issue.
Thefts Are Rising
Press accounts abound about the increase in catalytic converter thefts since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. National crime data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation do not specifically track catalytic converter theft, but the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that the number of stolen catalytic converters increased nearly every month in 2020. NICB reports that 2,347 catalytic converters were stolen in December 2020 alone, up from 652 such thefts in January 2020. A total of 14,433 catalytic converters were stolen in 2020, according to NICB data, compared to 3,389 such thefts in 2019. NICB theft data are based on a review of submitted insurance claims, so they likely undercount the actual number of catalytic converter thefts.
Source: Addressing Catalytic Converter Theft, CRS Report