Catalytic converter thefts soar with precious metal prices
ACROSS AMERICA – Car owners across the United States often leave an essential item that can cost $ 1,000 or more virtually unsecured outside overnight, allowing thieves to slip it in. a few minutes.
More thieves are realizing that reports of catalytic converter theft are increasing dramatically in large cities, mid-sized suburbs and small towns across the United States.
Experts say the platinum, palladium, rhodium, and gold that make up catalytic converters are what drives thieves’ desire to target that specific car part, part of a car’s exhaust system that transforms toxic gases produced by vehicle exhausts into harmless gases such as vapor.
California, Texas, Minnesota, North Carolina and Illinois were responsible for the most catalytic converter thefts, in that order, from 2018 to 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
David Glawe, president of the NICB, calls the theft of catalytic converters an “opportunistic crime”.
“As the value of the precious metals contained in catalytic converters continues to increase, the number of thefts of these devices is also increasing,” Glawe said in a press release.
The lure of thieves is not just a big paycheck, but the time it takes to pull off a catalytic converter heist. A home security video shared by officials in the city of Berkeley, Calif., Shows a pair of thieves stealing a catalytic converter in just three minutes.
“I’ve seen Ring Doorbell cameras from customers (which show it takes) a minute and a half, maybe two minutes,” Don Johnson, a mechanic who runs Johnny Franklin’s Muffler car repair shop in Santa Rosa, California. , told the Automotive Roadshow website.
“They come with the saw, cut it and cut the wire to the sensor that tells us the converter is doing its job, then they just unbolt it in the manifold, and off you go,” Johnson said.
Since the catalytic converter is located under the vehicle, victims likely won’t notice that it is gone until they drive off and hear a loud roar coming from below.
The metals that make up the catalytic converter have steadily increased in value over the past year and a half.
The value of rhodium was around $ 11,000 per ounce at the start of 2020; but after declining slightly at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it has now climbed to around $ 25,000 an ounce, according to KITCO.com, a website tracking the daily value of various metals.
Palladium was at $ 2,336 an ounce at the end of 2020, and platinum at $ 1,061 an ounce, according to the NICB. Auto salvage yards will pay between $ 50 and $ 250 for a catalytic converter, with the potential to make at least double the profit by selling the metals.
For the victims, this is a costly inconvenience. Replacing a catalytic converter can cost $ 1,000 or more.
“We usually see one a week, or maybe one a month,” Johnson told Roadshow of customers coming in to replace catalytic converters. “Now we see one a day, or sometimes three a day.”
The problem is so widespread, 18 states – Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont , Virginia and West Virginia – are considering legislation that would specifically target catalytic converter theft, according to the NICB.
Just over 1,200 catalytic converter thefts per month were reported nationwide in 2020, according to NICB data. That’s more than four times the monthly average of 282 such flights in 2019. And that figure was more than double the monthly average of flights from the previous year.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated an already troubling trend, the NICB said, noting a “continuous rise” in catalytic converter thefts in 2020, to 2,347 in December from 652 in January.
“There is a clear link between times of crisis, limited resources and the disruption in the supply chain that drives investors to these precious metals,” said Glawe.
Catalyst thefts more than tripled in Berkeley from 2019 to 2020, according to officials in the city, which is home to the University of California. Likewise, a 172% increase in catalytic converter thefts was reported in 2021 in mid-April in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The thieves appear to be targeting Toyota Prius catalytic converters, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement.
Toyota Prius cars accounted for more than a third of catalytic converter thefts in the city, the police department said, “due to the higher concentration of precious metals.”
Larger vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks, are often targeted because it is easy for thieves to slip under them, police said.
Here are some more tips for preventing catalytic converter theft from police in Skokie, Ill., Which are among communities across the country that are seeing an increase in these reports:
- Park in areas where your vehicle will be most easily seen by passers-by. For example, park under the light after dark or near a business window. Park near security cameras, if possible.
- Park defensively. Park high-end vehicles so that they are surrounded by vehicles with low ground clearance. This can deter thieves by making it more difficult for them to access the most vulnerable targets.
- If you have a garage, park your vehicle inside.
- If your catalytic converter is a “bolted” model, you can have the bolts welded closed and have additional metal welded to the exhaust system to secure it to the vehicle frame.
- Install a catalytic converter guard that will tighten around the converter. Engrave your converter with your vehicle’s license plate number or vehicle identification number in several places.