Catalytic Converter Theft in Virginia
Car theft has surged by 10%, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), during the pandemic. But the theft of catalytic converters from cars is another story! You may be wondering why someone would steal just a car part. While catalytic converter theft is nothing new, this opportunistic crime has increased by 400% due to supply chain disruption of the valuable metals platinum, palladium, or rhodium used to manufacture exhaust systems in cars. Thieves can get up to $250 for each catalytic converter they recycle.
Catalytic converter theft has become such a problem in the commonwealth that Virginia's General Assembly passed House Bill 740 on July 1, 2022. It's now a Class 6 felony, which could include a prison sentence of up to five years and states if you "willfully break, injure, tamper with, or remove any part or parts of any vehicle, aircraft, boat, or vessel for the purpose of injuring, defacing, or destroying said vehicle, aircraft, boat, or vessel."
Can you identify the subjects involved in stealing a catalytic converter from the 16500 block of Hull St Rd on 2/28 at 0130 hours? The subjects appear to be white males in a red 4dr sedan. A white female was also present. Contact @CrimeSolversCCH with tips 748-0660 pic.twitter.com/RjblJDmMGg— Chesterfield Police (@CCPDVa) March 9, 2021
The Lynchburg Police Department received 24 reports involving 31 vehicles in the second half of 2020. By the end of February 2021, 18 states, including Virginia, are evaluating potential legislative actions to curb this rampant theft problem.
How to tell if your catalytic converter is stolen
You get into your car and start it and hear an unmistakable loud roaring sound. It gets louder if you step on the gas pedal. Your car will not ride smoothly and can feel like the gas is not engaging well. Your catalytic converter has been stolen.
Can I drive without a catalytic converter in Virginia?
Environmental protection laws and Virginia state law require a functioning catalytic converter to reduce air pollution. The good news is it won't hurt to drive your car to the repair shop without it. If the loud noise and stares from other drivers don't bother you, a hefty fine from law enforcement will if you put off replacement too long.
Is catalytic converter theft covered by car insurance?
The bad news is a new catalytic converter can cost thousands of dollars. The expense often comes into play because it's against EPA law to swap a used converter from another car, retrofit a converter from a different car model, or buy one from a junkyard.
Comprehensive car insurance can cover theft of your car or parts of your car like a catalytic converter. Depending on your deductible, it may be worth it to file a claim. If your deductible is $1000 and a new part is $3000, you may decide to report the theft to your insurance company. If your deductible is $500 and the replacement part is $1000, it might make more sense to pay out of pocket. Talk to your local agent for the best advice for your situation.
How can you prevent catalytic converter theft?
The NICB reports that it only takes minutes to remove and steal a catalytic converter. Vehicles left or stored in parking lots for long periods, such as fleet cars, are often targeted. Car part thieves love high clearance SUVs and trucks for easy and quick access. Places that are quiet and isolated, like church and school parking lots, provide good opportunities for catalytic converter thieves to get the job done.
Here are tips to prevent catalytic converter theft:
- Park your car in a driveway or garage whenever possible.
Set your car alarm sensor to detect vibration.
Install security cameras to deter thieves.
- Park your vehicle in well-lit areas.
- Have your car's vehicle identification number (VIN) engraved onto the catalytic converter to make it easier to trace.
- Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device.
- Always lock your vehicle and set the alarm.
- Use motion-sensing lights in your driveway.
- Carry a good comprehensive insurance policy.
- Avoid leaving your car in an isolated area or parking lot.
- Call 911 if you see anyone climbing under a vehicle.
How can I report tips about catalytic converter theft in Virginia?
Virginia State Police even has a Heat Rewards Program for car crimes like catalytic converter theft. If you submit a tip about these crimes that lead to arrest, you could earn up to $25,000 from the HEAT Program! Visit www.HEATreward.com or call 1-800-947-HEAT (4328) to provide information.
Contact us for more information on catalytic converter theft insurance and use our tips to protect your car from theft!
Blog Cover Photo credit: Flickr, Seth Sawyers