Illinois among the top states for catalytic converter thefts

Tucked under your car are some very valuable metals and thieves are driving away with them at sky-high rates.

That in-demand metal is inside catalytic converters and right now, Illinois is one of the top states for thefts of the car part.


In a FOX 32 special report, we break down the crime, the high cost and what you can do to stop it from happening to you.

"They're going to go like this, cut, and then go over here and cut it, and it's out," said Gary Kinsler, owner of AutoHaus. "Literally you have gold under your car and they know this."

It is quick and costly damage.

"For your car it could be close to $2,000," Kinsler said.

At Autohaus in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, Kinsler and his crew have been extra busy because of this crime.

"Normally we would see one or two a year, but now we're seeing three to four a month," he said.

When your car loses this emissions control device, you will hear it, as soon as you start the engine.

"Come out, start my car and it's blasting. I thought I dropped my muffler. Ended up they took my catalytic converter," said victim John Sencion.

Sencion's car was hit twice and multiple cars on his block were also targeted.

And all it takes is no more than a minute for the thieves to make off the with costly converter.

So why do they want them? Catalytic converters have rare, valuable metals inside -- palladium and rhodium -- that top the price of gold.

"They're selling it to metal recyclers who give them premium money for it," Kinsler said.

"This is an all-time high for both the thefts we’ve been tracking as well as the price per gram for the precious metals that go in to the production of catalytic converters," said David Glawe, CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

He says thefts of catalytic converters spiked 300 percent in 2020 and that Illinois is in the top five states for the most thefts.

"What we’ve seen in general, over the last year, since the COVID-19 pandemic started is vehicle thefts, crimes involving vehicles, have gone up exponentially. Skyrocketed in most major metropolitan areas. Catalytic converters are no different," Glawe said.

FOX 32’s Sally Schulze can personally vouch for how fast and often this happens. Thieves swiped the catalytic converter off her husband's car two times in about one month. The second time they heard the thieves, but they were gone in the blink of an eye.

"I've seen this happen where they've taken it more than once," Kinsler said. "Do not park your car back in the same place because if you park that car in the same place, they'll come back and get it again."

Another thing to keep in mind is purchasing a catalytic converter clamp, which makes it much harder to saw through.

"The catalytic converter clamp generally goes for about a $150, you have to pay for labor, we charge $100 to put it on. But this buys you protection," Kinsler said.

Catalytic converter thefts are covered by insurance, but generally only if you have the more pricey comprehensive coverage.