In the midst of a nationwide rise in catalytic converter thefts, Bradford Police have reported the arrest of four suspects in connection to around 200 thefts across 15 communities in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Vermont State Police (VSP) have been investigating the thefts with the help of local departments, and on October 30th, police responded to a single-car crash in Newark on Newark Pond Road. Bradford Police requested VSP to seize the car involved, and a search warrant received on November 3rd permitted officers to search the vehicle, where they found several stolen converters.
Another search warrant issued on November 2nd for a Franklin Estates home in Newark turned up more stolen parts in addition to guns and illegal drugs. VSP said they have arrested four suspects linked to the crimes: Rusty Perry, Adam Hale, Gary Bolton, and a 15 year-old boy. Perry was also charged with fentanyl and heroin trafficking.
According to police, the suspects are responsible for thefts in 11 Vermont towns as well as 4 towns in New Hampshire, namely Lancaster, Lebanon, Keene and Swanzey.
The larcenies in New Hampshire and Vermont make up a fraction of the increasing number of yearly catalytic converter thefts across the country. Just last month, thirteen converters were reported stolen from cars in University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Mast Road Lot, the majority of which were Hondas and one Prius. UNH Police are investigating the thefts on campus, and it is not confirmed whether the UNH thefts are connected to the incidents perpetrated by the four suspects.
“We have seen such a drastic increase — over 400% since 2019 in catalytic converter thefts,” said Gina Wilken, public affairs specialist for State Farm.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), catalytic converter thefts jumped 325 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. Three thousand three hundred eighty nine claims were filed for converters stolen in 2019 versus over 14,400 claims in 2020. In 2018, only 1,289 thefts were reported, meaning that claims skyrocketed by 977 percent over the course of two years.
So out of all the auto parts one could steal, why specifically catalytic converters, and what are they anyway?
According to Aidan Reynolds, a third-year mechanical engineering student at UMass Lowell, “A catalytic converter is a part of a car’s exhaust system that helps ‘clean’ the exhaust by turning carbon monoxide and unburnt gas into CO2 and water.” Reynolds describes the component as “a tube filled with a bunch of honeycombs made of palladium and other precious metals,” which makes them valuable to sell as scrap. “You can bring them to scrap yards and get like $500 to $1,000 for them depending on the car you get them from,” added Reynolds.
UNH Police Captain Frank Weeks confirmed the scrap value of catalytic converters. “Many thieves sell them or scrap them for parts,” he said. “The metals in them are worth a lot for scrapping.”
The converters in hybrid vehicles tend to contain more precious metals than non-hybrid vehicles, according to Green Car Reports. Data from the NICB says that in 2020, rhodium was worth $14,500 per ounce, palladium was $2,366 per ounce, and platinum was $1,061 per ounce.
State Farm recommends leaving your car in a garage or under lights, if stored at home. In a more public area, State Farm recommends engraving the car’s VIN onto the converter so if stolen, buyers can look up the number, see it’s stolen, and the thieves won’t get money for it. Many auto insurance companies offer comprehensive plans to protect customers from theft, and anti-theft devices for converters like cages and catstraps have become more popular in the last few years.
With the recent upward trend in converter thefts, car-owners should remain vigilant and protect their vehicles as best as they can.