The New York Police Department is cracking down on catalytic converter thefts with a new high-tech labeling system.
Over the weekend, the 121st Precinct in Graniteville, Staten Island and 112th Precinct in Forest Hills, Queens, hosted enrollment events with the NYPD Auto Crime Unit in hopes of combating the rise in catalytic converter thefts plaguing the city.
A catalytic converter is a device located on the bottom of the vehicle that helps control the exhaust emissions; this mechanism begins to heat up as exhaust from the car enters the convertor, turning carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful emissions. These converters are valuable due to being constructed out of semi-precious metals.
“What we’re doing here today is we are taking efforts to combat the problem of catalytic converter thefts. This is a growing problem for the last few years, not only here in Staten Island, but throughout the city and throughout the nation. The problem is that when the catalytic converter, it is a part of the system of a car, there are metals built into that system, precious metals and over the last few years, [they’ve become] very expensive,” said Deputy Chief Terence Hurson, the executive officer of Patrol Borough Staten Island.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic reduced production, the metals used to craft these converters — palladium, platinum or rhodium — have become even more valuable. Catalytic converters can be stolen in minutes and cost close to $2,000 to replace.
Drivers will immediately know if their catalytic converter is stolen upon starting the ignition, which will give a gravelly roar.
During these weekend events, the NYPD installed labels with a special chemical that etches a serial number into the converter, preventing the thieves from making sales.
“Today we’re putting on labels. These labels will identify the catalytic converter, if it’s stolen by the VIN number. So, what we’re doing is we’re actually getting the cars located in the catalytic converters placing these labels on that. These labels actually etch a serial number into the converter and are also heat resistant,” Detective Thomas Burke said.
Prior to these new labels, thieves could claim that they removed the catalytic converter from a family member’s old car when selling them to an auto parts dealership. Now, however, thanks to the NYPD the converters can be traced.
“I’m installing the CATGUARD anti-theft label. The kit comes with instructions, comes with two catalytic converter labels. These labels go on the actual catalytic converter. They are coated with an acid. This acid etches a serial number into the converter,” Burke said.
Additionally, the NYPD warns that catalytic converter thieves often target; pickup trucks, SUVS, and Honda’s, or any vehicle that is high above the ground providing easier access to the precious metal.