Catalytic converter thefts on Long Island more than quadrupled from 2021 to 2022
MINEOLA, N.Y. -- Catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed on Long Island in 2022, according to new data.
They more than quadrupled from the year before. Now, there's a high-profile call to bring in more focused, federal help.
"It's roaring. It's like a helicopter instead of a car," said Matt Gitto, a New Hyde Park resident whose catalytic converter was ripped out. "It was around $2,400. I didn't have my car for a week, and definitely a hassle."
It's a maddening nationwide crime, but the numbers show an out-of-control spike in Nassau County since 2019:
- 2019: 1
- 2020: 100
- 2021: 472
- 2022: 2,292
The numbers spiked in Suffolk County too:
- 2021: 282
- 2022 1,581
"It's cut off with a sawzall in the morning hours and with about 15 seconds underneath your car," said Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Thieves discovered the soaring value of precious metals inside used to clean exhaust. They pulverize then sell the rhodium, palladium and platinum.
"These materials are incredibly valuable. So, we're talking of millions of dollars that we were able to recover here in Nassau County," said County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Following a large seizure of cash and converters in December, thefts are down slightly in January. But the investigation suggested an organized ring.
"Not individual thefts, but thefts prompted by rings because where else are these guys going to sell these catalytic converters with these rare materials? They don't just go on some street corner and say, 'I got some palladium. Do you want to buy it?'" said Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Schumer wants the Justice Department to form a designated task force. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, he requested a response team be sent to Long Island to bolster local police efforts.
"I make these requests occasionally when things are getting rougher, and they are as you've seen here," said Schumer.
There's a push in the auto industry to make the theft and trafficking of converters a federal crime, and require new vehicles to have the vehicle identification number etched into the converter for better tracing.
Gitto said he's all for VIN stamping.
"Every time I start my car, I'm kind of holding my breath a little bit," he said - because he knows it could happen again.
To protect yourself from catalytic converter theft, police advise parking in well-let areas overnight and up the driveway if you have one.
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