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Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise

<i>WGAL</i><br/>Just in the last three weeks
WGAL
WGAL
Just in the last three weeks

By Brian Roche

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    PENNSYLVANIA (WGAL) — Thieves are targeting something that is probably on your car right now: your catalytic converter.

Just in the last three weeks, police in Dauphin, Cumberland, Centre, Northampton, and Lehigh counties reported these thefts.

‘The car just roared’ A Lancaster County couple talked to WGAL News 8 Consumer Reporter Brian Roche after their vehicle was targeted.

For Mahua Bhattacharya and Jeffrey Long, their recent trip to Europe was the trip of a lifetime.

“We went to Italy for about 10 days,” Bhattacharya said.

When they returned to the Philadelphia International Airport – and their car that was parked in the economy lot that entire time – they added another memory to their trip.

“The moment that we turned on the ignition, the car just roared,” Mahua Bhattacharya said.

“I normally don’t hear anything because it’s a Prius and it’s quiet. But this roared to life, and it sounded like one of those hot rod cars,” Jeffrey Long said.

They quickly decided there was no way they were driving the car two hours back to their home in Elizabethtown.

The tow truck driver that came to get the vehicle recognized the problem right away.

“And he said, ‘Yes, it’s the catalytic converter.’ And we said, ‘What’s that?'” Bhattacharya said.

The catalytic converter changes gases and pollutants in your vehicle exhaust into less toxic pollutants. But it contains three very valuable metals, and the theft of catalytic converters has exploded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A thief with a rotary saw can get underneath a vehicle and cut out a converter in about 60 seconds. It’s then sold to scrap yards.

Over the last four years, the increase in catalytic converter thefts has been staggering: From roughly 1,300 theft claims in 2018 to more than 52,000 last year.

The catalytic converter theft problem has become so big that more than three dozen states have proposed legislation to deal with it. And 20 of those states have passed that legislation into law.

Two pieces of legislation proposed in Pennsylvania would require a scrap processor or recycling facility to collect information about the vehicle on any catalytic converter being sold and the person selling it. Also, the seller would have their payment withheld for 48 hours.

Legislators in the U.S. House introduced a bill in January that would require new vehicles to have the VIN stamped on catalytic converters.

As for Bhattacharya and Long, they have taken an extra step to safeguard their new catalytic converter with a protective plate.

“And basically what that is is a pretty thick plate of steel bolted to the vehicle frame, making it very hard to access the cat,” said Nate Barnhart, with Lancaster Toyota.

The cost of a protective plate is about $400.

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft? In the case of Bhattacharya and Long, insurance covered the theft.

Most auto policies with comprehensive coverage will help cover a stolen catalytic converter. It’s good to check with your company to find out about your coverage.

Targeted vehicles The couple’s car, a 2009 Toyota Prius, is on the list of the top 10 vehicles targeted for catalytic converter theft.

It’s not just one manufacturer or body style the crooks are after. Targeted vehicles range from small cars to full-size pickup trucks.

And none of the vehicles on that list are what you would consider fancy, luxury or high-performance.

The top 10 list is based on Carfax repair reports:

Ford F-Series truck Honda Accord Jeep Patriot Ford Econoline Chevrolet Silverado Toyota Prius Chevrolet Equinox Honda CR-V Toyota Camry Jeep Compass

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