www.wamc.org, Dave Lucas, June 13, 2022

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is rolling out a new program aimed at stopping catalytic converter theft.

Catalytic converters have become a hot commodity on the black market with a street value of $200 to $500 each. Speaking in Albany Monday, DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder says they contain precious metals, are an easy target for thieves and are quite costly to replace.

"Just to kind of give you an idea of how costly these metals are, as of December of 2020, Rhodium was valued at $14,500 per ounce," Schroeder said. "Palladium was at $2,336 per ounce, and Platinum at around $1,000 per ounce. Nationwide, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the number of thefts has ballooned from about 1200 in 2018, to more than 14,000 in 2020. The nationwide increase alone in 2020 was more than 300%."

Detective Maureen Stefenelli is assigned to the New York City Police Department's auto crime division. She and a colleague came up with the idea of etching a traceable serial number onto a converter that can be clearly seen and quickly linked back to the vehicle from which it was stolen.

"This sticker is made by a third party company," said Stefenelli. "But to bring the program to New York was an idea that myself and Detective Thomas Burke put our heads together and came up with because we're trying to find any way to deter this theft working in auto crime, we work with the theft of catalytic converters, almost every day. And during COVID, there was a huge rise, and it still continues today."

The etching process involves affixing an adhesive sticker to the converter. Then a Q-tip is used to swab acid over the sticker which burns an identifying serial number into the device. Full article