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Catalytic converter theft rising in Copper Country

HOUGHTON COUNTY — Amid reports and rumors of vehicle owners having the catalytic converters across the country, the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday said that on Tuesday night, deputies responded to a report of a catalytic converter stolen illegally removed from a pickup truck parked in the Twin Lakes area of Elm River Township. Another local police agency, which requested not be identified until they can write an official statement, said that on average, that department responds to one report per week regarding stolen catalytic converters, usually from tall vehicles that are easier to crawl beneath. The standard method is to crawl beneath the targeted vehicle and cut the converter off the exhaust pipe with a battery-powered sawzall, the officer stated. Thieves are often so bold as to commit the crime right on the main street.

This is typical of the process of stealing the units nationwide, reports All State insurance.

Thieves typically use a saw or wrench to remove it, depending on whether the catalytic converter is bolted or welded in, says Edmunds — and removal can take as little as one minute.

All State goes on to say that thieves target catalytic converters because they contain precious metals, like platinum, palladium or rhodium, that are valuable to metal dealers. They can sell them to scrap yards for up to $200, says Edmunds.

According to the insurance website Way.com, catalytic converter thefts have risen by over 400% compared to 2020. In fact, the site reported, between January and May 2021, car thieves stole almost 26,000 catalytic converters in the United States. that site reported, on Nov. 5, that Catalytic converter thefts have risen by over 400% compared to 2020.

“This equates to 5,200 thefts a month,” Way.com states. “And criminals aren’t just slipping underneath any old vehicle and ripping the catalytic converter out before fleeing the sight. According to analysts, it appears that thieves are intentionally targeting certain car models more than others.”

The common consensus seems to be that the Prius, Tacoma, Lexus SUVs, and the Accord are some of the most targeted cars for catalytic converter theft, the site reports.

Allstate.com says that a victim of theft may spend up to $2,000 getting their vehicle repaired, and there are several states trying to help reduce metal theft by instituting laws that regulate scrap metal transactions or dealers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

On Jan. 13, 2009, then Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation to help stop the theft of catalytic converters from motor vehicles by increasing the penalties for theft from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. The reasoning behind the legislation was because the value of a catalytic converter was less than the felony threshold for most larcenies, this increasingly common and very invasive crime was only a misdemeanor offense. The new laws were to provide a more severe punishment with hopes of deterring thieves in search of easy money from scrap metal.

“The theft of catalytic converters is on the rise,” said Col. Peter C. Munoz, director of the Michigan State Police, in January, 2009. “This type of crime occurs both day and night, and we’ve seen thieves target areas where numerous cars are parked, such as parking garages and shopping malls.”

Michigan’s law, unfortunately, has not hindered many thieves.

On Dec. 21, the MichiganDepartment of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) issued a statement in which Director Anita Fox encouraged Michigan residents to review steps they can take to protect against these thefts, “especially since the expensive damage caused by this crime may not be covered by their auto insurance policies,” she said. “As with any potential loss, Michiganders should review their insurance documents or speak with their insurance agent to understand their coverage before they experience a loss.”

DIFS encourages consumers to review policy documents or contact their insurance agent or company to understand their coverage before they experience a loss, so they can make sure they are financially protected. If your catalytic converter has been stolen, call your insurance agent or company to determine what coverage is available under your policy. If you have questions or concerns with your insurance policy or wish to file a complaint, contact DIFS at 877-999-6442 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Thieves can easily remove these expensive parts from cars and then sell them to recyclers for hundreds of dollars depending on the car’s make and model,” said Fox. “In addition to replacing the expensive converter itself, the damage caused by these thefts can be extensive and may cost as much as $3,000, or more, to repair. This will be covered by a comprehensive auto insurance policy but those who have not purchased this non-mandatory coverage may end up paying out of pocket for these repairs.”

The statement advises Michigan residents that additional information about the auto insurance reform law, including the amnesty period that allows uninsured drivers to get penalty-free auto insurance if they apply for coverage before Jan. 1, 2022, can be found at Michigan.gov/AutoInsurance. Frequently asked questions, tips for shopping for insurance, and an insurance locator to help find licensed agents are also available.

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