▶ Watch Video: New Mississippi law aims to protect catalytic converters from thieves

A law aimed at curbing the theft of catalytic converters goes into effect Friday in Mississippi after the nation has seen a recent dramatic increase in burglaries. The pricey automobile part is the subject of legislation this year in 36 other states.

“Since COVID started, the theft of catalytic converters has gone up like crazy,” mechanic Moises Haro told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. 

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter theft claims in 2020 skyrocketed by 325% in a single year. And as of March 2022, certain metals inside catalytic converters could cost as much as $20,000 per ounce. The bureau notes a “clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives these thefts.”

The device is designed to decrease noxious gasses from engine exhaust and plays a crucial part in a car’s operation. 

“Without your catalytic converter, you really just can’t drive the car,” Consumer Reports auto reporter Benjamin Preston said. 

Working like NASCAR pit crews, thieves typically use a cordless saw to cut out converters in seconds and resell the parts for a few hundred dollars per piece. 

One woman said she had to pay $2,500 to replace her catalytic converter after burglars stole it in broad daylight.

“You feel violated,” Crystal Washington said of her experience. 

The Mississippi law raises the fine for catalytic converter theft, requires those selling the device to provide an ID and VIN number from the vehicle it was removed from and requires transactions to be paid by check, according to Mississippi local news station WLOX

Mississippi state Rep. Kevin Felsher said Wednesday that collaborating with state Sen. Michael Thompson and other officials on the law “was an honor.”

At the federal level, Rep. Jim Baird introduced the “Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act” this year, which is aimed at reducing catalytic converter thefts by marking the devices with identification numbers that could address how parts were obtained. The bill has so far been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. 

“By closing long-exploited loopholes and strengthening law enforcement’s ability to locate stolen parts and enforce the law, we can create a safer environment for vehicle owners and put a stop to these crimes once and for all,” Baird said in a statement at the time of the bill’s introduction in January. 

The NICB warns car owners to stay vigilant in regards to thefts. The bureau encourages people to install catalytic converter anti-theft devices and to park vehicles in secure garages if possible.