SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Police departments and sheriff’s offices in Northern California and across the country have seen a rise in catalytic converter theft in the last few years.

The number of reported catalytic converter thefts rose from 1,300 in 2018 to more than 52,000 in 2021 — a staggering 1,215% increase, according to data from Carfax.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), catalytic converter thefts have seen a “significant increase” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals,” NICB said in a news release.                                                                                                                                           

A catalytic converter is a device essential to a vehicle’s exhaust system. Its purpose is to convert toxic exhaust emitted by an engine into more environmentally friendly gases. 

Thieves steal converters for their valuable metals that turn a quick profit.

Data from NICB lists California as the number one target for converter thefts. While the profile is similar nationwide, high gas prices and strict emission laws make hybrid vehicles popular for California consumers. 

Here are the top targets for thieves in the West, according to CARFAX.

  • 2001-21 Toyota Prius
  • 1985-2021 Ford F-Series 
  • 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  • 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  • 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  • 2007-20 Subaru Outback
  • 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  • 2003-11 Honda Element
  • 1998-2020 Subaru Forester
  • 1995-2021 Toyota Tacoma

The Greater Sacramento Region is grappling with the latest wave of crime.

“We are seeing higher ground-clearance vehicles and Hondas targeted. These thefts have focused around Hornet Commons, Parking Lot 10, Parking Structure 5 and Folsom Hall,” Sacramento State Police Department said in a statement.  

How are the catalytic converters stolen?

All vehicles manufactured after 1974 contain a catalytic converter. Hoping to obtain and sell its high-in-demand metals, criminals often use a jack and an angle grinder to steal catalytic converters in minutes. 

The brazen crime comes at a high cost for vehicle owners. Many miss work, encounter transportation hardship and pay $1,000 to $3,000 out of pocket to fix their vehicle.

However, experts and law enforcement officials explain the measures residents can take to protect their vehicles from these robberies. 

  • Park in areas where your vehicle will be seen most easily by pedestrians. For example, park vehicles in secured, alarmed, and well-lit areas 
  • Park defensively: Park high-profile vehicles so they are surrounded by low ground-clearance vehicles. This may deter thieves by making it harder for them to access the most vulnerable targets
  • Install a catalytic converter protection device that will clamp around the converter

Sacramento PD urges residents to call 916-278-6000 if they’re a victim of catalytic converter theft or have any specific information about this string of crimes.