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Thieves are targeting car parts for precious metals

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 07:46:54-04

BALTIMORE — Catalytic converter thefts are skyrocketing nationwide. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, theft reports have gone up every month since the start of the pandemic and they believe there’s a clear link between supply chain disruptions, limited resources, and the value of precious metals soaring.

Last month, a Towson woman started her car and heard something odd.

“A racecar and the check engine light came on,” said Robin, who asked that her full identity not be shared.

Robin later discovered that parts of her car had been taken.

“Very loud and it was just very upsetting. My friend knew immediately that my catalytic converter was missing off my car,” Robin said.

Apartment complex security video shows the thieves in action.

“They jacked my vehicle up, the guy went back under my car, took my catalytic converter and O2 sensor, hopped in the car and left the scene,” said Robin.

It took the three men just three minutes.

Robin doesn’t want to be identified because she’s worried the thieves will come back and target her again.

“So, this is not their first time doing this,” Robin said.

And during our interview, Robin learned her complex had been hit before.

“My neighbor just told me the exact same thing happened to her just last year, it’s getting out of hand, it needs to stop,” said Robin.

These thefts are happening all around the region. In April, thieves in Bolton Hill were caught on camera targeting a Prius.

“I never thought I’d have to worry about an old Honda Accord but apparently you have to worry about every vehicle,” said Robin.

Baltimore County Police have received reports of 167 catalytic converter thefts so far this year.

There are things you can do to guard against this crime including installing an anti-theft device, spray painting converters with heat resistant paint, etching on your VIN number or a hard to remove sticker so police can trace the part back to your car. However, these measures do little to stop thieves who are after the precious metals inside.

“Right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain and the mining of these precious metals is difficult, which has caused the price to go up exponentially in the last year. Since March 2020, rhodium’s up over 300 percent, palladium’s up 31 percent and platinum’s up 63 percent,” said David Glawe, president & CEO, National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Thieves can make anywhere between $50 and $875 depending on the type of precious metal. Meanwhile, it’ll cost drivers upwards of a thousand bucks to replace a converter. Even more frustrating is that if you don’t have comprehensive insurance, the repairs likely won’t be covered.

“When they took my catalytic converter, another pipe got damaged, there’s a hole in it, so I’m looking at between $1,000-1,500 to repair my car,” said Robin.

The best thing you can do is to park in a garage or well-lit area. Cars that tend to be more sought after include lower emission hybrid vehicles that have higher amounts of precious metals, trucks that have high clearance making access to the converters easier, and larger cars with multiple catalytic converters.