This type of crime has skyrocketed in various states during the Covid-19 pandemic.

(7-22-21)Theft is as old as humanity itself. However, what has been changing throughout history are the most common objects being stolen. With many U.S. cities having more than two autos per household, auto parts have become a valuable currency for thieves. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one component in particular has gained more prominence than ever. No, it’s not your radio, it’s the catalytic converter.

According to State Farm claims data, in the 12-month period from the second half of 2020 through the first half of 2021 (from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021), catalytic converters theft grew close to 293 percent nationwide, in terms of number of claims filed, compared to the 12 months prior (comprising the last half of 2019 and the first half of 2020), reaching more than 18,000 instances, compared to the slightly above 4,500 in the earlier period. In terms of payouts, the total paid to customers during the most recent 12-month period is more than $33.7 million. In the previous 12-month period it was slightly below $9 million.

The trend is accelerating: in the last 6 months of 2020, State Farm paid out slightly more than $12 million in claims for catalytic converter theft, but in the first 6 months of 2021, that number has grown to more than $21 million in paid claims.

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In the first three months of this year, police in Cleveland, Twinsburg, North Olmsted and Brooklyn Heights all reported multiple thefts of catalytic converters. In Mentor, police tell News 5 18 have been taken this year.

How big is the problem

The data from the first half of 2021 indicates that the ranking of the top 5 states in catalytic converter theft is led by California – with more than 3 out of 10 claims being filed in the Golden State. Texas is second, with roughly 1 out of 10 of these claims, followed by Minnesota, Washington and Illinois.

Catalytic converter theft is widespread and affects many car makes and models. From a growth perspective, the situation is dire in Texas, where during 2020 there were 445 catalytic converter thefts reported by State Farm customers. For the first half of 2021, that number has ballooned to 1,380, an almost 210 percent increase.

Why the catalytic converter

Many drivers have no idea where this component is on their vehicle. If your automobile is powered by gasoline or diesel, it has at least one catalytic converter under it. A part of the exhaust system required in US vehicles since 1975, it helps reduce the contaminants emitted by the exhaust. Because of the rare metals that are inside catalytic converters – including platinum, palladium or rhodium – this auto part can be worth several hundred to several thousand dollars.. Some thieves go as far as removing these metals to sell them on the black market.

State Farm Vice-President of Operations, P&C Claims Michael T. Keating 

“As we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a steep increase in the number of auto parts theft around the country, particularly of catalytic converters. Customers can rest assured that State Farm agents can provide them with the appropriate coverage to protect their assets. We would also like to remind customers that there is a lot that they can do to reduce the risk of falling prey to this type of crime.”

What you can do about it

The bad news is that catalytic converters can be easy to remove, particularly in tall vehicles like SUVs. Once the part has been extracted, drivers will hear the engine without any muffler, letting them know they have become the latest victim of this crime..

The good news is that, as with many things in life, you have options to protect yourself. First of all, by speaking with your State Farm agent, you can ensure that your auto insurance policy covers the theft of your entire vehicle or any of its parts, through comprehensive coverage.

Among other ways drivers can protect their vehicle is to park inside a garage or in well-lit areas, installing a sensitive alarm system, having a security camera pointing at your car in its usual parking spot, or engraving your VIN on your car’s catalytic converter.

Take precautions to not fall prey to auto parts theft.