SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Authorities say the number of catalytic converter thefts has exploded in recent years, with some vehicle models being targeted relentlessly.

The number of reported catalytic converter thefts rose from 1,300 in 2018 to more than 52,000 in 2021 — a staggering 1,215% increase, according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Catalytic converter thefts have seen a “significant increase” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NICB said. 

“There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals,” NICB said in a news release.                                                                                                                             

A catalytic converter is a device essential to a vehicle’s exhaust system. Its purpose is to convert toxic exhaust emitted by an engine into more environmentally friendly gases. 

Thieves steal converters for their valuable metals that turn a quick profit.

Here are the top targets for thieves nationwide, according to CARFAX.

  • 1985-2021 Ford F-Series pickup trucks (F-150, F-250, etc.)
  • 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  • 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  • 1990-2022 Ford Econoline vans
  • 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks
  • 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  • 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  • 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  • 2011-17 Chrysler 200
  • 2001-21 Toyota Prius

How are the catalytic converters stolen?

All vehicles manufactured after 1974 contain a catalytic converter. Hoping to obtain and sell its high-in-demand metals, criminals often use a jack and an angle grinder to steal catalytic converters in minutes. 

The brazen crime comes at a high cost for vehicle owners. Many miss work, encounter transportation hardship and pay $1,000 to $3,000 out of pocket to fix their vehicle.

However, experts and law enforcement officials explain the measures residents can take to protect their vehicles from these robberies. 

  • Park in areas where your vehicle will be seen most easily by pedestrians. For example, park vehicles in secured, alarmed, and well-lit areas 
  • Park defensively: Park high-profile vehicles so they are surrounded by low ground-clearance vehicles. This may deter thieves by making it harder for them to access the most vulnerable targets
  • Install a catalytic converter protection device that will clamp around the converter