Catalytic converter thefts hit area

Published 5:07 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

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The Franklin Police Department has been investigating a recent spate of alleged catalytic converter thefts in the city, with seven being reported over four days in May.

FPD Deputy Chief R.E. Porti stated that the department responded to three calls of catalytic converter theft on May 10.

  • At about 8:40 a.m., officers responded to the 1000 block of Armory Drive for a report of two vehicles allegedly having been vandalized. Reportedly, the converter had been stolen from one, and it had been cut off but left behind on the other.
  • At about 10:03 a.m., officers responded to the 1800 block of South Street for a report of converters allegedly being stolen from two vehicles at that location.
  • At about 10:27 a.m., officers responded to the 1300 block of Armory Drive for a report of one converter allegedly being stolen from a vehicle.

Four more reports arose across the next several days.

Porti noted that on May 11, officers responded to the 100 block of North College Drive for a report of a converter allegedly being stolen from a vehicle there.

The next day, officers responded again to the 100 block of North College Drive for a second vehicle that allegedly had its catalytic converter stolen.

On May 15, the FPD responded to two calls of alleged catalytic converter theft:

  • At about 12:13 p.m., officers responded to the 1300 block of Armory Drive for a report of a converter allegedly stolen from a vehicle.
  • At about 1:40 p.m., officers responded to the 200 block of North College Drive for a report of a converter allegedly stolen from a vehicle.

Porti emphasized that if anyone has information about these incidents or other criminal activity within the city of Franklin, they are asked to call Franklin Police at 757-562-8575, Franklin Crime Solvers at 757-516-7100, or contact the FPD online at Information that leads to an arrest can earn the caller a cash reward while remaining anonymous.


J.D. Power, described on its website as a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics, notes that catalytic converters first appeared in the mid-1970s and quickly started to be used universally. 

“It is a part of your car’s exhaust system that converts harmful engine-exhaust pollutants into something less harmful to the environment through chemical reactions,” Dustin Hawley states at “Most hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides convert into the ‘less bad’ carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor.”


Porti explained that catalytic converters are targets for thieves due to the value of their precious metals, the ease of removing them from vehicles and the inability to track them.  

Precious metals usually contained in catalytic converters include platinum, palladium and rhodium.

“Vehicles with ultra low-emissions are targets because their converters have more of the precious metals that increase their value,” Porti said. “Trucks and SUVs are targets because it is easy to get under the vehicle without having to jack it up.”

IS IT POSSIBLE TO DRIVE WITHOUT A CONVERTER?, which connects people to car mechanics near them for repair and maintenance, answered the question “Can you drive without a catalytic converter?”

“Yes, you could temporarily drive without a catalytic converter, and it won’t damage a modern car or engine,” officials on the website stated. “But in the long run, it’ll emit harmful gas, sacrifice your car’s engine performance and fuel economy and possibly get you in trouble with the law.”


Porti noted that emissions parts, such as catalytic converters, are necessary to pass the Virginia Safety Inspection. 

“The exception to this is if your vehicle did not come from the factory with a catalytic converter,” he said. “For example, cars manufactured before 1975.”


Porti shared the penalty for catalytic converter theft in the state by citing the Code of Virginia: “Larceny of a catalytic converter or parts thereof from a motor vehicle, regardless of the value, is guilty of a Class 6 Felony. Class 6 felonies are punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months, and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.”


Porti listed the following things citizens and businesses can do to protect themselves against catalytic converter theft:

  • Park in a well-lit area close to public entrances; regularly move your car’s parking spot or use an enclosed garage.
  • Install motion-activated lights and cameras in your parking area.
  • Paint your catalytic converter or etch your license plate number or vehicle identification number onto your converter. This may help alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen and make it easier to identify the owner.
  • Purchase an anti-theft device, such as a shield or cage, that makes it more difficult to remove the catalytic converter.