Thefts of catalytic converters in the United States have seen a significant decline, according to new data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The average number of catalytic converters stolen each month has decreased from its peak in 2022 through the first nine months of this year. The surge in thefts during the pandemic prompted Congress to consider legislative action.
The rise in thefts was primarily driven by the increasing value of the metals, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, used in catalytic converters. However, the prices of these precious metals have since dropped, reducing the incentive for theft. Rhodium, for example, has seen its price decrease to one-sixth of its 2021 peak.
Law enforcement agencies have also intensified their efforts to combat converter thefts. In June, investigators in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County dismantled an $8.2 million catalytic converter theft ring, resulting in an immediate 50% decrease in thefts in the area. Additionally, the Justice Department announced the bust of a $545 million national catalytic converter crime ring in November 2022, involving multiple federal agencies.
To address the issue, 21 states have enacted laws aimed at combating catalytic converter thefts this year, with 19 other states introducing similar legislation. At the federal level, Rep. Jim Baird introduced legislation in January that would require converters to be stamped with an identification number and codify thefts as a criminal offense.
While some states have implemented measures to deter thefts, the effectiveness of these laws was mixed when metal prices were high. For instance, despite Texas enacting a law requiring sellers to provide thumbprints and proof of purchase, converter thefts in the state reached new heights in 2022, as thieves exploited weaker laws in other states for selling stolen converters.