From airbags to catalytic converters, auto part thefts sharply rise across SE Michigan

Driving a Car
Posted at 10:25 AM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 17:57:11-04

(WXYZ) — From airbags to catalytic converters, auto part thefts continue to see a sharp rise across southeast Michigan.

Courtesy NICB

In the last 24 hours alone, Grosse Pointe Farms Police Department reported auto larcenies with several vehicles' steering wheels and columns taken during late-night hours.

Crime of opportunity: How to protect yourself from catalytic converter theft
Royal Oak police: 9 car break-ins over past few days involved stolen wheels, catalytic converters
Investigation leads to recovery of more than 175 stolen catalytic converters from Detroit home

Sergeant Jerry works undercover for the Macomb County Sheriff's Office. He says last year his team recovered 475 stolen cars worth over $8 million, and about 240 arrests were made for auto theft and related crimes.

But in recent years, the hot demand has been for auto parts.

"We are obviously seeing the rims and tires and that’s been a problem for many years, along with the catalytic converters," said Sgt. Jerry.

Batteries, airbags, and steering wheels are some of the parts on a thief's shopping list.

"Specifically, with the Chevy Malibus and Impalas, the steering column, the whole column themselves," he said.

Sgt. Jerry says thieves target these parts because they can be stolen in a matter of seconds and are hard to track.

"When catalytic converters are stolen, it goes to a scrapyard and it's parted out for ... the three metals; the batteries are also taken to the scrapyard, the airbags from the Malibus, they are trackable, but we are finding that a lot of them are not getting recovered," said Sgt. Jerry.

Depending on the make, new catalytic converters can go up to $3,000, while the stolen ones can fetch around $1,300, and the price can go up further if they are melted for the valuable metals they contain, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

Hannah also said they are seeing a rise in these thefts because of a shortage of parts.

"Especially again with the airbags there are just not enough airbags in stock right now for vehicles that are involved in accidents," he said.

Sgt. Jerry says there are things you can do to protect your vehicle.

For catalytic converters, he said there are aftermarket anti-theft devices. For the rims and tires, he suggests buying a locking lug nut.

Another recommendation, park in a safe, well-lit area whenever possible, always lock your ride, and don’t leave valuables in your vehicle.

Now, most comprehensive auto insurance should help pay for stolen or damaged vehicle parts, like a missing battery or catalytic converter. So it might be a good idea to enhance your coverage if possible.