Catalytic converter theft is a serious problem that, for some reason, isn’t getting nearly the media attention it should.
According to data posted by KSBY-6 reported that in California, State Farm Insurance handled approximately 4,507 catalytic converter thefts in 2020. The total payout for these claims was roughly $10.8 million. The numbers doubled in 2021. Those were just the claims reported to a single insurance company.
In 2022, a national catalytic convertor theft ring was taken down in a federal investigation. The investigation led to the arrest of twenty-one individuals and the seizure of millions of dollars worth of assets.
The organization was operating in the following ways:
- New York
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
The catalytic converter’s purpose is to reduce noise and air pollution. It’s safe to say that the thieves aren’t worried about either of these issues. There are a few reasons that catalytic convertors appeal to thieves. The first is that the sale of the convertors generates a high ROI. The second is that since it only takes a clever thief a few seconds to steal the catalytic converter, there is little chance they’ll get caught. According to cars.com, depending on the situation, a stolen catalytic converter has a street value that ranges from $140 to $1,500.
When someone is caught stealing a catalytic converter, they’ll usually be charged with petty or grand theft. Petty theft is a misdemeanor charge in California. Grand theft is a felony.
What determines whether you’re charged with petty or grand theft after getting caught stealing a catalytic converter in California is the value of the convertor (or convertors if you have multiple catalytic convertors on you.) You’ll be charged with petty theft if the total value is less than $950. If the value exceeds $950, you’ll be charged with grand theft in California.
Whether you’re charged with grand or petty theft, your sentence may include some jail time and a fine. However, depending on your criminal history, the nature of the theft, and some other variables, the judge may opt for probation rather than jail time.