(WHTM) – A new law signed by Governor Tom Wolf adds theft of catalytic converters to Pennsylvania’s vehicle laws.

The law says “a person commits the offense of theft of a catalytic converter if the person unlawfully takes or attempts to take possession of, carries away or exercises unlawful control over a catalytic converter with intent to deprive the rightful owner of the catalytic converter.”

The unlawful obtainment of a catalytic converter worth less than $50 will be a third-degree misdemeanor. Catalytic converters worth between $50-200 is a second-degree misdemeanor, and thefts worth $200-1,000 is a first-degree misdemeanor.

If someone unlawfully obtains a catalytic converter worth more than $1,000, they will face a third-degree felony.

Multiple offenses can increase the penalty faced for stealing a catalytic converter.

The number of reported catalytic converter thefts rose from 1,300 in 2018 to more than 52,000 in 2021 — a staggering 1,215% increase, according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Catalytic converter thefts have seen a “significant increase” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NICB said. 

A catalytic converter is a device essential to a vehicle’s exhaust system. Its purpose is to convert toxic exhaust emitted by an engine into more environmentally friendly gases.