You probably don't think much about your catalytic converter. But thieves are thinking about them.
If you're missing your catalytic converter, an exhaust emission control device on your vehicle, you'll know right away because of the loud, roaring noise.
Workers heard that sound recently at A&A Metro Transportation in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
"They got us, they got us again," said Tom Arrighi, the president of the company. "So we're coming up with a lot more protection."
Arrighi says thieves stole catalytic converters from a dozen of his vehicles last year, and last month, they got 18 more.
"It takes a toll on finances, of course, takes a toll on all our drivers because they are all looking for their vehicles, they can't use them. And our garage, we have an outstanding garage, but they're lined up with 18 jobs that we didn't anticipate, and there's a shortage of the catalytic converters, so we have to wait," said Arrighi. "It's a very difficult situation."
Arrighi says he's out more than $30,000 this time around, and his wasn't the only business hit in Bridgewater recently.
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"They are turning that into pretty good cash pretty quickly, and I would say in some cases, fairly easily," said Bridgewater Police Chief Christopher Delmonte. "It really is just about cutting off a piece of the vehicle underneath and taking it away."
Thieves crawl underneath vehicles and saw catalytic converters off exhaust lines — a two-minute crime that can cost car owners thousands of dollars.
If you're wondering why anyone would want your catalytic converter, the devices contain precious metals that have seen sharp price increases recently. Thieves can get anywhere from $50 to $300 apiece for them — and even more if they're lifted from hybrid gas-electric vehicles, like a Toyota Prius, because their converters contain more of the metals.
Fraud investigator Joseph Boche is tracing catalytic converter thefts.
"You go hit 10 Priuses overnight, that's eight grand," said Boche, director of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators. "I mean, that's a lot more profitable than selling drugs, and a whole lot less risk."
Boche says he sees stolen converters shipping across state lines and internationally.
In Boston, police have seen an uptick in the crimes. Total thefts jumped from 46 in 2020 to 224 in 2021. Hondas, Toyotas and Fords are targeted most frequently in Boston. And once the converters are removed, police say it's usually not possible to identify the vehicles they were removed from, making it difficult to confirm the property is stolen.
In Bridgewater, authorities are trying to crack down on the people buying them.
"We should also and have been identifying those unscrupulous scrap business owners," said Delmonte. "That's a small percentage of the scrap business, the secondhand business, but unfortunately, there's enough of them that it makes it worthwhile for the criminals."
In the meantime, Arrighi is adding more security at his business and installing metal cages underneath his vehicles.
"I'm just hoping it all stops," he said. "That we can at least protect ourselves before the next one."
Insurance companies say they are seeing individual claims of catalytic converter thefts. The loss is covered if you have a comprehensive coverage policy.
To help protect yourself, authorities recommend parking in a garage if possible, or leaving your vehicle in a well-lit area.