It’s one thing to break into a car to steal its contents. But it’s another to steal actual parts of a vehicle with the intent to sell them. Automobile parts can be costly, and one particular part has been getting much attention this past few years: the catalytic converter.
Why are catalytic converters popular targets for theft?
A catalytic converter is a component of the exhaust system of any motor vehicle which helps reduce the toxicity of an engine’s emissions. The inside of a catalytic converter contains precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, which makes the converter a popular target for thieves who can sell the metals for much cash.
The other half of why thieves like to target catalytic converters is because they’re located externally underneath motor vehicles, making them easy to steal without breaking into the automobile first. Thieves can take them out with a wrench if they’re bolted on. And even if they’re welded onto the exhaust system, enterprising crooks can use pipe cutters or portable welding tools to cut the part off.
According to reports, insurance claims for catalytic converter theft nationwide surged to 64,701 in 2022 from just 16,660 claims in 2020.
The penalties for theft
Stealing a catalytic converter may be child’s play to anyone with working handyperson knowledge, but it’s a crime under Michigan law.
Anyone caught stealing a catalytic converter can be charged with larceny, which is a felony per state law. On conviction, the accused faces a maximum fine of $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.
Just because catalytic converters are so easy to steal, it doesn’t mean anyone should try to. Making several hundred dollars off the sale of a stolen auto part isn’t worth the risk of imprisonment and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Those facing charges should consider their legal options unless they want to fully serve their sentences.