(New Castle, DE 19720) The New Castle County Division of Police is reminding citizens that thieves are stealing catalytic converters from cars at an increasing rate. Numerous thefts have been reported throughout New Castle County over the last week.

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is a device that looks like a small muffler along the exhaust system. It is designed to convert the environmentally hazardous exhaust emitted by the engine and convert them into less harmful gases. To do this, they use platinum, palladium, or rhodium. In recent years, however, the values of these precious metals have skyrocketed.

As the value of the precious metals remains high, so does the number of thefts of these devices. There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and supply chain disruption that drives these thefts.

What Do Thieves Look For?

Catalytic converter thefts typically happen to vehicles parked for prolonged periods in large lots, such as apartment complexes, shopping centers, mass transit commuter parking lots, or company parking lots. Vehicles that sit higher from the ground, such as trucks, pick-ups, and SUVs, are particularly vulnerable to catalytic converter theft because thieves can slide underneath without having to jack up the vehicle to gain access to the converter. With just a few cuts of a battery-powered saw, the catalytic converter can be stolen in less than a minute.

How to prevent catalytic converter theft?

  • Park indoors if possible
  • Park in a well-lighted area
  • Look for cameras: Choose parking garages and parking lots covered by cameras when you need to park the vehicle.
  • Consider installing a dash camera. Some dash cams use motion sensors and will record anyone close enough to your car to get to the catalytic converter. The presence of a camera can be enough to scare thieves off.
  • Install an anti-theft device. Some car shops offer shields designed to make a catalytic converter harder to remove. We’re aware of no studies on how well these devices work, but it seems logical that thieves might move on to cars without them.
  • If you own or work at a business or factory, park within a fenced area that’s busy during the day and secure at night.
  • Purchase a vehicle security system and make sure it’s set to trigger with just the slightest motion.
  • Get your catalytic converter etched with your VIN number or license plate number to make tracking easier.

How to tell if your catalytic converter has been stolen?

  • A loud roar when you start the car that gets louder as you accelerate.
  • Increase in exhaust fumes, or unusual exhaust smells.
  • Missing parts under the vehicle leading to the muffler.
  • Uneven or sputtering acceleration due to lack of exhaust regulation.               

According to CARFAX, these are the top ten vehicles targeted for catalytic converter theft. Please take extra precautions if you own a vehicle on the list.

Toyota Prius

Honda Accord

Honda CR-V

Toyota Tacoma

Ford F Series Truck

Subaru Forester

Toyota Camry

Ford Econoline

Ford Explorer

Nissan NV

How to help?

We ask the public to be aware of these thefts and to report any suspicious activity by dialing 911. Citizens can also provide tips through the New Castle County Police non-emergency number at (302)573-2800 or visit us on Facebook at New Castle County Police Department. Information regarding catalytic converter thefts can also be provided by contacting Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333. If you are a victim of a catalytic converter theft, please call 911 immediately.