Catalytic converter thefts are reaching a fever pitch.

The rate of these thefts is surging throughout the nation. Here, in Illinois, the National Insurance Crime Bureau ranked Illinois as the fifth most-targeted state in the nation.

Nationwide, there were 1,298 catalytic converter thefts reported in 2018. There was a modest jump in 2019, a year that garnered 3,389 reported thefts.

Then, there’s 2020. The number of reported thefts catapulted to 14,433. We’re scared to see the data for 2021 once it’s released. Supply costs keep going up so there’s little chance these thefts are going down.

And, as with most things, this does come down to money.

But, let’s back up for a moment for the non-gearheads. A catalytic converter is a device that looks like a small muffler within the exhaust system. It’s designed to convert the engine’s hazardous exhaust into less harmful gases.

To accomplish this, manufacturers use platinum, palladium and rhodium. The value of these precious metals has skyrocketed in recent years. On Nov. 18, the prices for these metals were listed as $1,049, $2,080 and $13,300, respectively. That’s per troy ounce. (It takes 1.09 regular ounces to make a troy ounce, which is the measurement standard for many precious metals.)

In 2017, the value of rhodium was $779.23 per troy ounce.

With gold in their eyes and power tools in their hands, thieves make quick work of removing catalytic converters from the underbelly of gas-powered vehicles. That’s Part 1 of the problem. Part 2 is how easily they can turn these car parts into cold, hard cash with no questions asked.

Part 3 is the crime has a direct impact on victims as vehicle owners are left stranded and holding what could be a repair bill of up to $2,000.

Legislation has sought to address these problems with a new Illinois law that would require catalytic converter sellers to show buyers a driver’s license or state ID. We believe this would be a major deterrent for these less-than-scrupulous sellers.

If the lure of easy money is gone, we think the theft of the converters will go with it. And since there’s no indication that the value of precious metals will go down anytime soon, we encourage support of this stop-gap measure.