Catalytic converter stolen? Join the growth club

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20 October 2021

Mark Hixon started his Prius at Ala Wai Boat Harbor late last month and was immediately surprised by what looked like a racing car spinning its engine beside him.

Then came the smell of unfiltered exhaust gases.

Hixon, professor of marine biology and director of the graduate program in zoology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, parked around 8:30 a.m. that morning and returned that afternoon to find that his converter catalytic converter had been stolen from right under his car – in broad daylight near a busy intersection.

“There’s no muffler, so the engine noise comes right out of the engine with all the pollution and smoke and everything,” Hixon said. “At first I just thought someone had started a hot rod next to me. Then I realized it was my car.”

Hixon then checked the underside of his Prius and noticed that the spring bolts, which held the converter in place, were strewn on the floor.

“There was no note,” Hixon said. “There is no indication that anyone witnessed anything or attempted to let me know. “

Hixon had just become the latest victim in a crime that swept both state and nation.

The Honolulu Police Department has received more than 1,800 catalytic converter theft reports this year. There have also been hundreds of attempted thefts, said Michelle Yu, a spokeswoman for the department.

According to local auto store owners, lawmakers and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the theft of catalytic converters has been on the rise for three years.

“The tow truck operator told me he did 17 on one day,” Hixon said. “He said some days are much worse than others.”

Catalytic converter theft has increased nationwide over the past three years, according to the NICB. In 2018, 282 thefts of catalytic converters were reported in the United States each month, according to the NICB. This number increased to 1,203 per month in 2019 and to 2,347 per month in 2020.

“Vehicle thefts, carjackings and break-ins are all crimes that we have witnessed for several months, and now catalytic converter thefts are also on the rise,” NICB President David Glawe wrote in a press release earlier this year.

“We have seen a significant increase during the pandemic. It is an opportunistic crime. As the value of the precious metals in catalytic converters continues to rise, the number of thefts of these devices is also increasing. There is a clear connection. between times of crisis, limited resources and disruption in the supply chain that drives investors to these precious metals. “

Catalytic converters are devices that convert harmful substances in vehicle exhaust gases, such as carbon monoxide or nitric oxide, into water vapor and carbon dioxide. Thieves often target catalytic converters – which contain platinum, rhodium, and palladium – and sell them for between $ 200 and $ 1,000, depending on the car.

Hybrid cars, like the Hixon Prius, are often worth more to thieves because they contain greater amounts of precious metals.

The increase in flights has caused a delay in ordering catalytic converters across the country.

“A lot of times they’re out of stock at the factory, which means they actually have to make it from scratch before they send it out,” said Laurie Marcuiller, manager of Kaimuki Auto Repair.

“Usually for parts… we can order from the mainland and they have them available there. But, she added, because catalytic converter theft “is so common everywhere it’s not available anywhere, so they have to make it from the manufacturers from scratch before they can even get it to us. send”.

Hixon, still awaiting its new catalytic converter, paid $ 300 for the new part after its insurance covered its share. However, without insurance, the devices can cost anywhere from $ 3,000 to $ 4,000, according to Marcuiller, who said a dealer told him it would take two months to get a new catalytic converter.

Lawmakers consider a cure

In Hawaii, lawmakers have tried to curb the tide of catalytic converter theft. Earlier this year, a bill was drafted to address the problem by forcing those who sell catalytic converters to produce proof that they own the vehicle the device came from. The bill also required buyers to take photos of documentation provided by sellers and called for the theft of catalytic converters to become a Class C crime.

The law project, HB446, and his companion in the Senate SB55 Also included a provision to increase the fine for recyclers convicted of obtaining stolen goods, from $ 25 to $ 500 to between $ 100 and $ 2,000. This would be applied during routine inspections by the police.

The bill was passed by the House of Hawaii and was amended several times before reaching the Senate, where it was blocked by the Judicial Committee in late March.

“It’s quite frustrating as this was an obvious issue that affected many residents of Oahu as well as neighboring islands, something that really affects every household,” said Rep. Jackson Sayama, co-author. Bill. “Not everyone has several thousand to hand out to replace a converter. Even putting a shield on it costs several hundred dollars.”

Catalytic converter shields, which are installed on the converter to protect against theft, can cost anywhere from $ 300 to $ 600 with installation.

Sayama, who represents District 20 comprising St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise and Kaimuki, said he plans to reintroduce the bill in the next legislative session and work with HPD to reduce theft. catalytic converters.

“I do not intend to stop this initiative simply by passing a law,” Sayama said. “I plan to work with HPD officers in my district and around Oahu to ensure that inspections take place and that this law, if enacted, will be enforced.”


Honolulu Civil Beat is dedicated to being a group of informed citizens, all striving to make Hawaii a better place to live. We achieve this through investigative and surveillance journalism, in-depth corporate reporting, analysis and commentary that gives readers a holistic view of issues important to our community.


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