'Crime of opportunity': Catalytic converter thefts on the rise across the country

The catalytic converter under your vehicle can be a target for thieves. Converter thefts are on the rise throughout the country and across the Tampa Bay area. 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported more than 14,000 catalytic converters were stolen in 2020. Chet Roberts, who owns Family Discount Muffler in Bradenton, said he sees it first hand. 

"I'm getting anywhere between one and four a week right now with people who have stolen them," said Roberts.

Roberts said thieves are after the precious metals inside, like platinum, rhodium and palladium. But for the victims of catalytic converter thefts, replacing one isn't cheap. 

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"They range anywhere from $300 up to $1300 or $1400 for the part installed," said Roberts. "It’s rough especially for the working family or church bus or the preschool vans they are getting them stolen, and they are having to go out of pocket to replace them unless they go through insurance."

The Bradenton Police Department said to deter thieves, car owners can park their vehicle in a garage or in a well lit area, have an automatic sensor that turns lights on if someone is in or around your vehicle and look out for one another. Any residents can also let police know if they see anyone lurking near a car. 

"Catalytic converter thefts really started to spike during the pandemic, it’s a crime of opportunity," said Meredith Frameli with Bradenton police.

BPD said the most commonly targeted vehicles include: 

  1. Chevrolet Silverado pick-up trucks
  2. Ford F-series pick-up trucks
  3. Econoline vans
  4. Honda Accord sedans
  5. Element SUVs
  6. Jeep Patriot SUVs
  7. Mitsubishi Outlander SUVs

Bradenton police also suggested car owners mark the vehicle VIN on the converter using a UV pen.