EXCLUSIVE: Catalytic converter thefts up 248% in Nassau, 183% in Suffolk so far this year
News 12 Long Island has learned catalytic converter thefts in Nassau County are up 248% so far this year. There are also nearly three times as many catalytic converter thefts so far this year in Suffolk County.
Last year in Nassau County, there were 445 stolen and this year a total of 1,549 converters were stolen. In Suffolk County, there were 289 converters stolen in 2021 and 819 so far this year.
The issue has been going on for months with an emergency meeting held in August about the type of thefts in New Hyde Park.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder says the department uses social media and puts flyers up all over the county.
"Our cops are always doing their jobs, we have roughly 456 square miles, we have 177 patrol cars, probably more populated than anywhere else in the country," Ryder says.
Ryder also says the areas near major roadways are easier targets for thieves, so his department is taking a proactive approach - launching Operation Safe Neighborhood to deter the catalytic converter thefts.
He says they are putting more resources on those streets by using more cameras and technology at different hours of the day.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman says a key factor in the thefts is what he calls a revolving door of crimes due to bail reform. He says police are out on patrols, and 36 new officers have been hired to combat the issue.
The county has also elicited help from local businesses.
"We have reporting requirements for our auto body shops and our scrap metal shops," Blakeman says.
Russ Rader, of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says claims for stolen catalytic converters have risen nationwide. He says hybrid vehicles like older Toyota Prius are the most valuable to thieves.
"That's because the catalytic converters in hybrids contain more of the precious metals because they don't run as hot as conventional vehicle engines.
Experts say car owners can protect themselves by parking in high traffic areas and using well-lit streets or garages.
One New Jersey town is starting to tag drivers' catalytic converters with a number similar to a car's VIN. But a local police chief told News 12 over the phone while that might deter some criminals, there are scrap yards that would have no problem buying the stolen item. This is why some local departments are telling all scrap yards to avoid buying any catalytic converter.
State Sen. Anna Kaplan co-sponsored a bill that would require new vehicles to have a tracking number etched on converters.
"This is, I think, a perfect solution, and it will dry up the black market," Kaplan says.
If signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Kaplan's bill would also create a tracking system for buyers and sellers of used catalytic converters.
There are several converter shields and locks for converters, but most mechanics tell News 12 they may not work very well.
Details on Nassau thefts below: