CHICAGO — Catalytic converter thefts are up across the country, and the crimes are starting to have a lasting effect on Chicagoans.
In the first half of 2022, State Farm paid out $3.5 million for 1,912 catalytic converter theft claims in the state of Illinois, which is more than the entire year of 2021 ($3.1 million for 1,985 claims), and nearly triple the payout the insurance company had in 2020 ($1.1 million for 740 claims).
The National Insurance Crime Bureau said thefts are taking off because the value of precious metals found inside catalytic converters has skyrocketed. The three rarest precious metals in catalytic converters are Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium, which are going for $882, $1,906 and $12,500 an ounce, respectively.
Eddie Zipperstein, owner of Richard’s Body Shop on West Lawrence Avenue, said ongoing supply chain issues are impacting some car brands, but others just aren’t prepared for the escalation in thefts.
“They’re not used to producing [catalytic converters],” Zipperstein said. “It’s an oddball item. This thing in a normal car will last you, when you buy a car, almost ten or 15 years.”
The increase in thefts combined with a shortage of materials to make the equipment piece have left many people taking their vehicles to a repair shop where they wait for months to have a replacement installed.
“I have heard nothing but question marks,” said Michael Albert, a sign language interpreter who relied on his 2015 Toyota Prius to get back and forth before thieves stole his catalytic converter. “I know that they’ve said they’ve got about 35 to 40 cars in their shop waiting for catalytic converters.”
Albert said his dealership anticipates he’ll be without his Prius for up to nine months.
“This one attempt to steal my catalytic converter has really thrown my life into disarray because as a sign language interpreter, I have to go all over the city,” Albert said. “These emergencies pop up in hospitals and police stations and emergency press conferences and I used to be able to hop in the car and get there. Now it could be a good half hour, hour, hour and a half before I could get some place.”