Catalytic converter theft runs rampant in Seattle, nation sees dramatic increase

May 16, 2022, 2:13 PM
ExperTec Automotive technician Adelmo Rodriguez etches a catalytic converter with the cars license ...
ExperTec Automotive technician Adelmo Rodriguez etches a catalytic converter with the cars license plate number in Huntington Beach on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Photo by Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Even with the new law on the books, catalytic converter theft is still on the rise in Washington.

The evergreen state is still experiencing a heavy stream of stolen catalytic converters, and there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight. Napa Auto Parts on South Hudson Street is still seeing the same amount of catalytic converters being ordered as last year, according to assistant manager Ryan Dake.

“With the cat converts being stolen, we are also seeing high exhaust repair as well because it gets damaged when thieves cut the converter out. Nothing has changed,” Dake said.

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Catalytic converters became a hot commodity during the pandemic due to the high-priced metals, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, within them. Rhodium’s worth alone fluctuates from $16,000 to nearly $26,000 an ounce, according to cars.com.

Melissa Vasquez, a victim of catalytic converter theft, said her 2006 Mazda Tribute was damaged in the process.

“I was driving to work and my car sounded like a roadster,” she said. “Then, I noticed my full tank of gas was gone. I told my boyfriend and he checked it out, and low and behold, someone stole the converter and punctured my gas line.”

After selling her Mazda for parts, Vasquez now drives a Ford Focus because it’s low to the ground, making it harder for someone to potentially steal a converter.

Washington isn’t the only state seeing a rise in this crime; California and Texas are the two states with the most catalytic converter thefts, followed by Indiana, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Illinois.

However, relief might be on its way. Congressman Jim Baird (R-Indiana) has proposed the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act. If passed, it will require auto companies to add an identifying number, potentially a VIN, to new catalytic converters so there will be a way to identify if they are stolen or not.

Baird said he sat down with law enforcement during a round table discussion and came up with the PART Act. It was introduced to Congress back in January with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors. Baird also mentioned he has the support of many organizations, including Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, The Institute for Scrap Metal Recycling Industry, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The bill shouldn’t cost automakers anything as it would only require manufacturers to record the existing serial number on the part and include it with other identification information on that vehicle. This process is already required for a list of other major motor vehicle parts. As of this reporting, the bill is in a holding pattern as Baird waits on committees to take up the legislation.

So what can car owners do to protect themselves until PART or something similar passes? Pemco Insurance spokesperson, Derek Wing, said to check your car’s policy and make sure you have comprehensive coverage because that can cover the damages and the stolen catalytic converter after paying your deductible. Almost all new cars are required to have comprehensive coverage. Car owners who have older or paid off cars often lower their insurance coverage by taking comprehensive coverage off their policy to save money. However, Wing says it’s a good idea to add it back because if your car is the victim of a stolen catalytic converter, you will have to pay out of pocket, which can cost thousands of dollars.

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As for Washington’s HB 1815, which was signed into law back in March, there’s still not enough evidence if it’s strong enough to deter catalytic converter theft. Meeghan Black, the Bellevue Police Department’s spokesperson, said the department applauded the law and that not enough time has passed to see if it works.

Only time will tell.

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Catalytic converter theft runs rampant in Seattle, nation sees dramatic increase