Depending on where you live and work, parking might just be the worst part of your day-to-day. If you don’t have a garage, driveway, or designated parking spot, you’re forced to find street parking, which is a big enough headache as is, but it may soon become even more of problem. Public safety and crime experts are warning that thieves are targeting cars parked in certain areas, looking for a specific part that has become increasingly valuable recently. Read on to find out where they say you shouldn’t park your car right now if you don’t want to become one of the victims of these rising car thefts.
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Catalytic converter theft has surged over the last year due to a spike in the price of rare metals used to make the car part. These thefts were rare before the COVID pandemic, with an average of 282 thefts a month in the U.S. in 2019, per data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). In 2020, that average rose to 1,203 thefts per month, but there was exponential growth from the 652 reported in Jan. 2020 to the 2,347 reported in Dec. 2020.
And now, it’s skyrocketed even further: From Jan. to May 2021, nearly 26,000 catalytic converters have been stolen, according to a report from public records search engine BeenVerified. That’s a monthly average of 5,200 thefts, a 122 percent increase from the average in 2020.
“It’s an opportunistic crime,” David Glawe, president and CEO of the NCIB, said in a statement. “As the value of the precious metals contained within the catalytic converters continues to increase, so do the number of thefts of these devices. There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals.”
The surging string of catalytic converter thefts has public safety and crime experts warning about where you shouldn’t park your car right now. Mark Ponegalek, a public information officer at the police department in Torrance, California, which has seen an influx of thefts, told USA Today that drivers need to be parking on streets with high foot traffic. Thieves are targeting cars parked in areas with little lighting and people to bear witness to the crime.
“Secure parking is great, but you want to definitely park in a well-lit area or on a street that has high traffic,” Ponegalek said. “[These thieves] are looking for streets where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic so they can get in and out.”
BeenVerified reports that there are specific cars being targeted. According to the site’s data, Toyota, Honda, and Lexus vehicles are the top targets for catalytic converter thieves right now. In 2020, the most common cars targeted were the Toyota Prius, Honda Element, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Tacoma, and Honda Accord.
Some states are experiencing worse rates of car thefts than others as well. BeenVerified says that if current trends continue, California, Texas, Washington, Minnesota, and Colorado are expected to be the hardest hit states this year.
However, Arizona, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Georgia have already had significant spikes in catalytic converter thefts in 2021 compared to 2020.
The NICB recommends that car owners install an anti-theft device on their catalytic converter seeing as swiping the car part is so easy for thieves. “Removing a catalytic converter takes only minutes using some basic, readily-available, battery-operated tools from a local hardware store,” explained Glawe, the NICB president and CEO.
According to NerdWallet, there are several different types of devices designed to do the job. There are steel shields that fit over the car part and require extra time and tools to remove, cages made of high-strength steel that is hard to cut, and stainless steel cables that can be welded from the catalytic converter to your car frame for a secure lock.
Depending on what you choose, these anti-theft devices will cost you anywhere from around $250 to $800, Colby Sandman, owner of Muffler Tech in Sacramento, California, told NerdWallet. And while that may seem like a steep price, it’s likely cheaper than having to replace your catalytic converter altogether. Glawe says it’ll cost you “anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to get your vehicle fixed.”