GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Once again, Kent County is seeing a big surge in catalytic converter thefts. The crimes surged last year and they’re only getting worse now.
So far this year, the Kent County’s Sheriff’s Office has investigated 108 catalytic converters being stolen, according to Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt. That’s almost triple the number from the same period last year.
Jon Manion, an insurance agent with Farm Bureau Insurance in Grand Rapids, had never received claims for catalytic converter thefts until a few years ago.
“I had my first catalytic converter call a couple years back, hung up the phone and was like, ‘I didn’t even know that was a thing,’” Manion said. “And within a few months, we had quite a number of them.”
“Unfortunately, this is the type of crime that we would identify as a crime of opportunity,” DeWitt said. “If there’s a vehicle that’s left alone that is a potential target and the criminals feel comfortable approaching it, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”
Kent County is on pace to shred last year’s total of 242 thefts. That’s when the surge really started.
“We saw a huge spike in 2021, which had an 800% increase over the number of thefts in 2020,” DeWitt said.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is also seeing an increase, according to Capt. Jake Sparks. So far in 2022, 43 catalytic converters have been stolen, compared to 155 in all of 2021.
A catalytic converter cleans pollutants from your car’s exhaust. Because of the special metal parts used in production, criminals can sell them for hundreds of dollars.
On Monday, two people were arrested for allegedly cutting a catalytic converter from an SUV parked in someone’s driveway in broad daylight. The sheriff’s office says it happened around 11 a.m. March 23 on 18 Mile Road in Nelson Township, near Cedar Springs. The suspects are a 39-year-old from Howard City and a 34-year-old from Greenville.
“The victim on Monday, the damages as a result of that theft is going to be upwards of $1,000 to repair,” DeWitt said.
If this happens to you, Manion said you’re protected if you have comprehensive coverage. That’s optional. Manion said it covers repairs for damages that aren’t caused by a crash with another vehicle, like vandalism, theft and hitting an animal.
“If you have comprehensive coverage, they’re more than likely going to cover the new catalytic converter that has to be put in and any damage that was done to the car to get at the catalytic converter,” Manion said. “Things that were cut away, things of that nature.”
In Michigan, people are legally required to at least have liability coverage for auto insurance. That includes property damage and personal injury.
“If you have what’s labeled as full coverage in Michigan, that means you have comprehensive coverage,” Manion said. “But if you have liability coverage only, you will not have comprehensive coverage.”
You would have to pay a deductible. Manion says that’s typically $100. His insurance company is also seeing a huge uptick in catalytic converter claims this year.
Kent County sheriff’s deputies often go to the area where the crime happened to see if neighbors or businesses have surveillance video that captured it. That can help law enforcement identify any vehicles or suspects.
DeWitt said people can protect themselves by changing how they park.
“Whenever possible, park their vehicles inside of building, inside the garage to try to limit that possibility,” he said. “If they have to park in a parking lot, park near other vehicles, park near lights where the vehicle’s lighted.”