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Catalytic Converter Theft Up 175 Percent In The Bay Area Compared To 2020

Catalytic converters have become a favorite among automotive thieves thanks to their metal.

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Anti-theft measures, like engraving cats with unique numbers, have proved futile.
Anti-theft measures, like engraving cats with unique numbers, have proved futile.
Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP (Getty Images)

We’ve written at length about how catalytic converter theft is on the rise. The device that helps reduce emissions has been a popular, easy to steal, and rewarding prize for thieves around the United States. But one insurance company has released some pretty stark numbers: Among their customers in California, cat theft has increased 175 percent from 2020 to 2021.

Sit with that one for a minute. That data comes from State Farm only, SFGATE reports. But the assumption is that the numbers from other insurers are similar.


Here are some of the facts from the article:

Catalytic converter theft claims were up 175% among State Farm customers in California from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, compared with the same period in the previous year, a report from the insurance company showed. More than 6,400 catalytic converters were stolen in the state just from State Farm customers — and a claim filed with the insurance company — in 12 months.


As the article reports, the theft itself is often only the beginning of a long, frustrating path. The author notes that, when her cat was stolen from her Honda Accord, a Honda dealer told her it would be $5,000 to repair. She reports on other victims whose insurance covered the cost of the replacement but who couldn’t get the part in question due to backorders.

One police officer in the SFGATE story posits that the rise in thefts could have something to do with the pandemic, when people started leaving their cars in one place for longer periods of time — but there are obviously other causes. Massive unemployment, income inequality, and more likely also play a role. Ignoring the economic aspect would be like claiming Jean Valjean stole bread only because he knew where to find it, not because he was motivated by the hunger of his nieces and nephews.

Why catalytic converters? To put it simply, the metals its made of — things like platinum, palladium, and rhodium — are valuable. Take them to a scrap yard, and you can make hundreds to thousands of dollars. And since some skilled thieves can remove a cat in under a minute, we’re talking about a pretty simple way to earn money.

Right now, deterrents haven’t worked. The best advice given to prevent cat theft is to park your car indoors, set up an alarm system on your car, or keep it under surveillance — but those things aren’t always present. You’re probably not going to find a locked, indoor parking space at your workplace or at the grocery store. And other deterrents, like engraving cats with the car’s vin number or adding protective cages, have done little.