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DMV Announces Initiative to Address Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise in New York, leading the DMV to launch an initiative to help track the part and discourage future thefts.

Auto dealers will now be able to inscribe a traceable serial number onto the catalytic converter. This number will link the part to the specific vehicle.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reported that catalytic converter theft has increased by 200% in some areas of the state.

“New car dealers have been hit particularly hard by these thefts. In addition to the cost to replace the stolen parts, these thefts often result in thousands of dollars in additional damage to the vehicle, which means a dealer has to wait to sell the vehicle, or a new car buyer has to wait significantly longer to receive their vehicle,” said DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder. “We are happy to help get etching kits into the hands of dealers to help them fight the scourge of catalytic converter thefts.”

The cost of theft is not limited to the part itself. The person taking the catalytic converter often damages the undercarriage of the vehicle when cutting out the catalytic converter. Fuel lines and electric lines are also cut, adding between $5,000 and $10,000 of damage to the vehicle. The part costs a dealer between $2,000 and $3,000.

Precious Metals Boost Value of Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converters use precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium to convert toxic engine exhaust to less harmful gasses. These metals have seen a marked increase in their value. Rhodium is currently trading around $18,000 per ounce compared to $850 five years ago. Palladium is about $1,500 per ounce, followed by platinum at close to $950 per ounce.

Due to the precious metal content, the street value of a catalytic converter ranges from $200 to $500, according to the DMV.

Catalytic Converter Theft Is a National Problem

New York is not alone in seeing the increase in catalytic converter theft. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported 1,298 catalytic converter thefts in 2018. State Farm ranked California as No. 1 in this type of theft, based on insurance claims. Texas had the second-most catalytic converter thefts.

The legislatures in California, Colorado, and Washington have introduced bills aimed at stemming the rise in theft.

Bills are also being introduced at the federal level. Indiana Congressman Jim Baird has introduced the Preventing Auto Recycling Thefts (PART) Act. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and 12 industry partners sent a letter in May 2022 to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers in support of Baird’s bill.

“Catalytic converter theft is a major concern for dealers nationwide,” said NADA President and CEO Mike Stanton. “The PART Act would help deter catalytic converter thefts that are impacting dealerships, fleet businesses, and consumers alike.”

Theft Isn’t Limited to New Vehicles

These emissions-control devices are taken from the exposed exhaust systems of parked vehicles. Theft is not limited to new cars and trucks. Older vehicles can also be targeted. Nassau County detectives arrested two men using a reciprocating saw to remove catalytic converters in Elmont in May 2022.

Stolen catalytic converters are sometimes sold to mechanics, recyclers, and repair shops. In some cases, thieves remove the metal to sell on the black market.

Purpose of Catalytic Converters

In 1973, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enacted stricter exhaust emissions that required all vehicles, beginning with the model year 1975, to be outfitted with catalytic converters. The device takes toxic compounds from the engine’s emissions and converts them to less harmful byproducts.

Car manufacturers are required to sell cars with a catalytic converter that lasts a minimum of 8 years or 80,000 miles. Aftermarket converters don’t have the same requirements and contain lower amounts of precious metals. OEM (original equipment manufacturer) catalytic converters have more value.

Legal Counsel to Preserve the Rights of the Accused

Every American has rights under the law, including the presumption of innocence. At Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC, we believe that only through skilled defense can the integrity of our judicial system be upheld.

We fight for each client, using strategies tailored to the client. If you are accused of theft, we will treat your case with the same energy and dedication that we expend on violent felonies.

Contact us right away if you are charged with a crime. Your initial consultation is free. Reach us online or call (516) 218-5131.