By Leonard A. Robinson   

Auto thefts climbed by 9.5% in 2020, according to a study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).   

More than 800,000 car thefts occurred in 2020, an increase of 73,000 from 2019, NICB says. Every month in 2020 saw increases, with June to December seeing double-digit gains each month.  

Reports have also shown an uptick in thefts of expensive car parts, such as catalytic converters. According to NCIB, more than 14,000 catalytic converters were stolen in 2020.   

Numerous cities and metropolitan areas, such as St. Louis and Washington D.C., have created task forces with surrounding law enforcement agencies to combat an escalation in car thefts. State legislatures, such as GeorgiaNew YorkHawaiiVirginia, and Tennesee, are evaluating possible solutions to the ongoing problem.   

Legislators in Indiana passed a law in April classifying theft of a catalytic converter and knowingly purchasing one as a felony. Indiana State Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-8) said he believes this would curb the profit incentive for thefts.  

“If the scrapyards or, say, a bumper shop is buying them and not following procedures, that is stolen,” said Sen. Bohacek. “So, this will certainly make scrap dealers start following the rules.”  

Another driving force behind car thefts is the skyrocketing demand for precious metals. According to the New York Times, the need for metals such as rhodium and palladium has increased dramatically in recent years as manufacturers look for more environmentally sustainable methods to produce car parts. Palladium sells for somewhere between $2,000 to $2,500 per ounce, while rhodium currently sells for about $21,900 per ounce.   

David Glawe, an executive from NCIB, explained to NPR that the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated the problem.   

“The laborers in the mine have been reduced, and the supply chain has been disrupted, which has drastically increased the cost of these precious metals to be mined and produced,” Glawe said 

Experts and mechanics advise that the best way to avoid car thefts is to keep your vehicle locked at all times, even while driving, and avoid leaving your keys and other valuables inside your car.   

Devices preventing thefts of catalytic converters have become popular, NerdWallet reported. The devices range from $250 to $800 and include shields that fit over the converter, difficult to cut cages, and welded cables.