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Police see 'significant increase' in catalytic converter thefts in Austin

APD investigated 27 catalytic converter thefts in 2019, compared to 584 thefts in 2020.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The above video about car thefts in Austin is from May 2020.

The Austin Police Department reported a "significant increase" in catalytic converter thefts from 2019 to 2020. Data released on Tuesday shows APD's Commercial Burglary Unit investigated 27 catalytic converter thefts in 2019, compared to 584 thefts in 2020.

The car part contains precious metals including palladium and rhodium. According to APD, those chemical elements have "increased substantially in value over the last five years and are now an attractive commodity for thieves to resell."

During 2020, the following five vehicles were targeted the most:

  • Toyota Prius (263 thefts)
  • Honda Element (60 thefts)
  • Ford Econoline (37 thefts)
  • Chevrolet Express (24 thefts)
  • Toyota Tundra (17 thefts)
Credit: Austin Police Department
Data from the Austin Police Department shows Toyota Priuses were targeted more than any other vehicle type.

"I’m told that a Prius is a particularly attractive target because the catalytic converter is less corroded compared to other types of vehicles because it is a hybrid and only partially runs on the diesel motor," an APD spokesperson said. "The minimal wear and tear means that it will typically yield a higher value at a scrapyard."

Austin police said the majority of catalytic converter thefts in 2020 involved a personal vehicle and happened near the owner's residence.

If you are a victim of catalytic converter theft, you can file a report online at ireportaustin.com or through Austin 311.

The APD Commercial Burglary Unit shared the following tips to prevent catalytic converter thefts:

  • Park in areas that are heavily trafficked and well lit when feasible
  • If you have a garage with sufficient space, park inside and be mindful about closing the garage door
  • Weld the catalytic converter to the vehicle’s frame to make it more difficult to steal
  • Engrave the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the catalytic converter to make it easier to identify the owner
  • Calibrate your car alarm to sound if there is vibration detected

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