The theft of precious metal-filled car gadgets has soared 295% in Charlotte

The theft of precious metal-filled car gadgets has soared 295% in Charlotte
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The theft of catalytic converters in Charlotte has skyrocketed over the last year.

You might be thinking: the theft of what?

Catalytic converters are part of a car’s exhaust system that convert pollutants like nitrogen oxide into harmless gases, according to Cars.com. They’re located underneath a car.

Tighter emissions standards around the world have sent the prices for precious metals used in catalytic converters — such as palladium and rhodium — soaring, per the New York Times. In fact, some of the metals the gadgets contain are actually more valuable than gold.

  • That’s why catalytic converters have become popular targets of theft — both in Charlotte and nationwide.

Driving the news: In 2019, 218 catalytic converters were stolen in Charlotte, according to data from CMPD. In 2020, that figure shot up to 862 — a 295% increase.

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  • This year, the numbers are already high. In January 2020, 47 catalytic converters were stolen in Charlotte. In January this year, that number rose to 122.
Catalytic converter theft

Catalytic converter theft as of Feb. 23, 2021. Data: Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Thieves take catalytic converters from underneath cars by sawing them off. If you start your car and hear a load roaring sound, there’s a chance someone stole your catalytic converter.

  • Depending on your insurance situation, it can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to replace it.

It’s easier to take them these days since people are leaving their cars unattended as they remain at home because of the pandemic, as Axios Denver reported. (Denver saw a 1,600% spike in catalytic converter theft last year from 2019).

Catalytic converters on some hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, can be worth more than those on standard vehicles, per WBTV.

Bottom line: Check on your car periodically if you don’t drive it regularly. Park it inside, if possible, or in a well-lit visible place, if not. Additionally, there is equipment out there that can be installed onto cars to prevent catalytic converters from being stolen.

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