Theft of catalytic converters and other auto parts has skyrocketed this year | Fairfax County
Fairfax Police Department warns residents do not leave valuables in vehicles
JThere has been a sharp increase in car thefts and vehicle thefts in Fairfax County this year. Since January, there have been a total of 393 stolen car parts and 864 items stolen from cars in Fairfax County.
Items stolen include airbags, tires, rims and catalytic converters. Unlocked vehicles with unsecured high-value items are also targets for criminals.
“We know this is a crime of opportunity,” Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) Sgt. Lance Hamilton.
According to Hamilton, these thefts have also been centered around areas with high car volumes such as parking lots, apartment complexes and townhouse developments.
Earlier this year, the FCPD uploaded a video to Facebook in hopes of warning residents of catalytic converter thefts.
In the video, FCPD Public Affairs 2nd Lieutenant James Curry detailed a recent arrest made by officers in which three men were seen on security cameras “passing between vehicles with a car jack. car”.
The three men were then chased by police in a high-speed car chase before they crashed their vehicle and fled on foot. Shortly after, two of the three men were arrested by officers.
Fairfax County isn’t the only county in Virginia to see an increase in motor vehicle crime. Across Virginia, from Richmond to Newport News, an increase in car-related thefts has prompted Virginia lawmakers to create new legislation addressing the theft of catalytic converters and other auto parts that would render the car inoperable.
“Our number of motor vehicle parts thefts has increased significantly over the past two years: 135 in 2020, 123 in 2021 and now 416 in 2022,” Hamilton said. “Our command staff meets weekly to address this increase through proactive patrols. These increases are not unique to Fairfax County.
On April 11, Governor Youngkin signed into law HB 740 and SB 729, which are identical bills aimed at stopping the theft of catalytic converters.
The bills make theft of a catalytic converter a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, and require scrap buyers to keep records of purchases involving catalytic converters during two years.
Before these laws were passed by Youngkin, these types of crimes were only Class 1 misdemeanors.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the theft of catalytic converters in particular has increased dramatically during the pandemic. In 2018, only 1,298 cases of catalytic converters were stolen. In 2020, the number rose to 14,433 theft claims.
Catalytic converters have become more valuable – and therefore a target for theft – since the start of the pandemic due to the metals that are used to make them.
“Our major crime detectives, in conjunction with detectives from the station-level Criminal Investigations Division, are still working diligently to solve these crimes,” Hamilton said.
To protect yourself and your car from these types of thefts, FCPD recommends not leaving valuables in your car overnight, parking in well-lit areas, and locking your car doors. when you leave your vehicle.
Proactive community policing by patrol officers in the late evening and early morning has also reduced these types of thefts from cars, according to Hamilton.
For catalytic converters, owners might consider purchasing aftermarket devices designed to make it harder for the part to be stolen. Painting or engraving your VIN number into the converter is another FCPD recommended option.
“An unlocked car gives criminals access to your belongings, your home, and they can even steal your car,” said Sgt. Tara Gerhard of the FCPD Public Affairs Office in a video posted to Facebook on March 5.
For this reason, Gerhard recommended not leaving house keys, car keys, or garage door openers in your car unattended. Also, firearms should never be left unattended in your vehicle.
“Do your part in crime prevention,” Gerhard said.
If you see suspicious activity, call FCPD’s non-emergency number at 703-691-2131.