Queens is epicenter of catalytic converter thefts in the five boroughs

catalytic converter
With catalytic converter thefts skyrocketing across Queens, council members introduced legislation to provide etching kits to car dealers and the general public. (Photo courtesy of governor’s office)

Catalytic converter thefts across the five boroughs have risen by nearly 269% over the past year, with Queens leading the way with 2,092 catalytic converter thefts by August, compared to 574 during the same period last year, according to the NYPD.

When he was first elected in 2017, Councilman Robert Holden would receive occasional constituent complaints about catalytic converter theft occurring in neighborhoods he represented including Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and his own neighborhood of Maspeth. Now the thefts of catalytic converters have quadrupled around the five boroughs in the last year and earlier this month, Holden joined fellow Council members Linda Lee and Selvena Brooks-Powers to introduce legislation to distribute catalytic conversion etching kits.

“The scourge of rampant catalytic converter thefts hasn’t spared any neighborhood in the city, bringing crime right to our local streets and driveways,” Holden said. “Any measure that can help cut down on these thefts is worthwhile.”

The legislation would create a citywide program to distribute vehicle identification number (VIN) kits to etch identifying numbers into catalytic converters to deter future thefts. Int. 759 would require the NYPD, in collaboration with the DOT, to distribute the kits to car dealers and the general public for personal use.

“Across the city, there has been an exponential surge in catalytic converter thefts, amidst inflation and a worsening economy, our constituents are being saddled with thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs,” Lee said. “The precious metals found in catalytic converters are worth thousands of dollars on the black market and this Council has the opportunity to empower New Yorkers to protect themselves and curtail this illegal activity.”

Parking lots, auto dealerships, auto repair shops and residential driveways are prime targets for thieves that roll up in the night and act with the precision of NASCAR pit crews as they remove the catalytic converters from the undersides of cars, vans and trucks. The device helps control exhaust emissions by turning carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful emissions.

Governor Kathy Hochul announces a statewide crackdown on thefts of the devices. (Courtesy of governor’s office)

“The precious metals found in catalytic converters have become the latest commodity to entice illegal activity,” Brooks-Powers said. “This new legislation will ensure New Yorkers have the tools to curb the rampant increase in catalytic converter theft and empower them to safeguard their vehicles with the VIN etching kits.”

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a crackdown on catalytic converters and auto theft on Oct. 17 by targeting unauthorized and illegal vehicle dismantlers that operate chop shops. She signed legislation that imposes restrictions on the purchase, sale and possession of catalytic converters by vehicle dismantlers and scrap processors.

“Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed across our state and nation, and these comprehensive actions double down on our efforts to keep New Yorkers and their property safe, protecting our communities and cracking down on crime,” Hochul said.

Holden noted that the governor signed the legislation less than a month before the Nov. 8 general election.

“It’s about time the governor finally, after more than a year, realizes that this crime is rampant throughout the state — must be election season,” he said. “If only she would address the reasons behind the crime surge in general and push to get rid of bail reform.”