Thieves continue targeting cars amid COVID-19; how to protect yourself

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Police say catalytic converters can be an easy target for thieves, especially among cars that are parked on the street.

“Basically, what’s going on right now is people are getting desperate. Criminals are getting desperate, and catalytic converters thefts… I mean it’s just pretty simple. Someone can basically crawl under or lift up your truck or van, and they can cut the catalytic converter out in two minutes,” said Sgt. Chris Kim, Crimestoppers.

Thieves can get hundreds of dollars just for a catalytic converter because of the precious metals inside, which can contain platinum, palladium and copper.

However, it can cost theft victims up to a thousand dollars to replace, and it may take some time with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“For those of us who are cooped up at home, and we’re not driving our vehicles, just make it a habit, just to go out and check on your vehicles [and] to make sure that everything’s okay, that it hasn’t been broken into,” said Sgt. Kim.

Major cities across the United States have seen an uptick in car theft. Local insurance company, DTRIC Insurance said it hasn’t seen that happen here in the islands yet, but that could change with more people losing their jobs.

“Based on history [from] the 2008-2009 recession, the industry did notice a spike in claims, because people if they’re experiencing financial hardship, they get desperate. They’re going to find ways to get some money, and sometimes that’s involving insurance claims,” said Mike Mishima, DTRIC Insurance vice president.

DTRIC Insurance said it’s keeping an eye on the number of auto theft claims that are filed.

“We’re anticipating that there may be, of course we hope it doesn’t happen, but there may be a spike,” said Mishima.

Sgt. Kim said there are things you can do to keep your car safe.

“If you’re a homeowner and you do park your car in the street or on your driveway, you may want to invest in some motion lights, as well as security cameras,” said Sgt. Kim. “There are cameras you can install inside your vehicle. Those are typically cameras you can install on your dash or your rear-view mirror or in the rear [of your car].”

Sgt. Kim said if your car or car part is stolen, you should report it to police immediately.

“When the people are able to file these police reports, we’re able to track it and we’re able to keep stats on it. We’re actually able to track where these thefts are occurring, and then we can actually have the officers focus on that general area,” said Sgt. Kim.

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