September 21, 2022

Rise in Catalytic Converter Thefts Hits Princeton, Four Recent Cases

By Donald Gilpin

The Princeton Police Department has reported four thefts of catalytic converters so far this month, from cars parked on Stanworth Lane and Lytle Street and two cars on Birch Avenue.  There have been eight catalytic converter thefts in Princeton this year, according to Lieutenant Chris Tash.

It’s a crime that is expensive for motorists — with replacement costs at $2,000 or more —  and frustratingly difficult for police to combat. Removal of the catalytic converter takes thieves just minutes with tools readily available from hardware stores and is usually performed at night.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau has reported a sharp increase in catalytic converter thefts nationwide as the value of the precious metals they contain —platinum, palladium, or rhodium — has increased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Tash noted that the converters are usually sold to recyclers, scrap yards or junk yards, which will pay from $100 to $300 apiece.

A catalytic converter, part of the car’s exhaust system, is designed to convert environmentally hazardous exhaust from the car’s engine into less harmful gasses.  If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll know, from the noise and probably the fumes, Tash noted, though your car will still run. “But you’ll have to get it fixed right away,” he added.

To help avoid catalytic converter theft, Tash recommended parking in a garage or well lit area, if possible; installing a bright motion-sensor security light on your home or a video camera; installing a vibration detection alarm device on your car; or installing a catalytic converter anti-theft device, which is available from various manufacturers. 

Etching your license plate number onto the catalytic converter can also help to discourage thieves or to make the part identifiable to law enforcement personnel if the part is recovered.  In some cases the theft is covered by insurance, though the owner is responsible for paying the deductible amount.

Tash pointed out that catalytic converter theft is not just a Princeton issue. “It’s happening everywhere,” he said.  He added that the PPD is actively investigating the thefts and working with other agencies and area police departments to collaborate and share information.