Sun Cities residents and businesses continue to fall victim to catalytic converter thieves.
One of the latest victims was Banner Olive Branch Senior Center, 11250 N. 107th Ave., Sun City, which had two cars and one van targeted within the past two weeks, according to Julie Ash, senior center spokeswoman. It was not the first time the agency was targeted, having had converters removed from delivery vans last year as well.
Arizona ranks high in the nation in the number of catalytic converter thefts. The state ranked No. 9 according to statistics kept by insurance carrier State Farm. The company compiles its stats from claims data.
According to those claims, catalytic converter theft is on the rise.
A catalytic converter is an emissions control device in a exhaust system typically underneath a vehicle. The device filters out toxic gases and pollutants from internal combustion engines.
Thieves target the converters because they contain valuable metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. Depending on the size of the converter, thieves are selling them for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
For car owners, it can be a costly crime because of the potential loss of work, finding and paying for alternate transportation and paying thousands to get the car fixed. For commercial businesses and community service agencies like Olive Branch, the thefts disrupt deliveries and force the same or higher costs to replace the devices.
“It really is costly to repair those vehicles,” Ash said. “And there’s the extra cost of preventative measures.”
She said Olive Branch officials had cages installed around the converters on their vans but did not do so on the cars.
“The cars are so low to the ground it was impractical,” Ash said. “And that’s ironic since they say that is one reason is car is less likely to be targeted than a truck or van.”
State Farm and law enforcement officials have suggestions for protecting vehicles against catalytic converter and other types of theft.
Vehicles should be parked inside a garage or in a well-lit area. If a vehicle must be parked in a driveway, owners should consider installing motion sensor security lights. While lights may not provide complete security, it may make some thieves think twice.
Vehicle owners also can install a catalytic converter anti-theft device or an alarm system on their vehicle.
Thefts of converters have become an increasing problem in the Valley and nationally. During 2019, State Farm paid $4.3 million for 2,375 catalytic converter theft claims nationally. During 2020 and at the height of the pandemic, State Farm experienced an increase of more than 318% in the amount paid compared with 2019 — more than $18 million paid for 9,320 claims.
During 2020, State Farm paid just more than $140,000 on more than 80 catalytic converter theft claims in Arizona. During the first six months of this year, State Farm already had paid more than $443,000 for slightly more than 300 catalytic converter theft claims in Arizona.
MCSO officials recommend seasonal and non-seasonal residents alike participate in programs such as the Vacation Watch offered by the respective community posses. In addition, businesses and service organizations that have vehicles, along with residents, are encouraged to establish and participate in the Neighborhood Watch program.
To get on the Vacation Watch in either community, go to the Posse headquarters — 10861 W. Sunland Drive in Sun City and 20450 W. Stardust Blvd. in Sun City West — and fill out a card.
“Our goal is to engage as many as possible Neighborhood Watch programs in Sun City,” said Maria Coesens, Sun City Posse Neighborhood Watch coordinator, in an email.
Posse officials in both communities are available to help get a Neighborhood Watch organized.
Even if a vehicle is parked in a garage, it can be vulnerable if the garage door is left open. An open garage door is an invitation for a thief at any time, especially at night, according to Rich DeMeyer, Sun City West Posse commander. Posse patrols in both communities watch for these and call owners of homes with open garage doors.
Anyone who suspects a situation or circumstances are suspicious are encouraged to report it to MCSO at 602-876-1011. MCSO is the law enforcement agency for Sun City and Sun City West.
The posses in both Sun Cities assist MCSO by conducting patrols within their communities to help spot suspicious behavior and circumstances. While the posses are not certified law enforcement agencies, they do report what they see to MCSO for law enforcement.
News Editor Rusty Bradshaw can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @SunCitiesEditor.