Why Are Catalytic Converter Thefts So Common?

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In recent years, there has been a significant rise in the occurrence of catalytic converter thefts worldwide. These automotive components, responsible for reducing vehicle emissions, have become a prime target for criminals and even organized crime rings due to the valuable metals they contain. Here’s everything you need to know about why catalytic converter thefts are so common.

How common are catalytic converter thefts?

According to a study done by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), last year there were over 64,000 reported catalytic converter thefts in the U.S. and over 24,000 in California alone. Catalytic converter thefts have always been common, but the numbers skyrocketed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic slowed down mining and made it more difficult to obtain the precious metals that happen to be found in catalytic converters.

High demand for precious metals

These valuable metals, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium, act as catalysts to convert harmful gasses into less toxic emissions. The growing demand for these precious metals in various industries, such as jewelry, electronics, and renewable energy, has led to their increased value.

As a result of this growing demand, thieves view catalytic converters as a quick and lucrative source of these valuable metals, making them an attractive target for theft. According to the NICB, catalytic converters from gas cars often sell for $50 to $250 and those from hybrid vehicles can sell for close to $800.

Lack of security measures and ease of theft

One of the other primary reasons for the prevalence of catalytic converter thefts is the lack of adequate security measures. The location and accessibility of these components underneath vehicles make them vulnerable to theft. Unlike other car parts, catalytic converters are not typically engraved or marked, making it difficult to trace and identify stolen converters.

Criminals find stealing catalytic converters relatively easy due to their accessibility and the speed with which they can be removed. The converters are often located near the exhaust system, held in place by bolts or clamps, and can be quickly cut off using power tools. Moreover, thieves can target multiple vehicles in a short span of time, increasing their chances of success. If you want to decrease your risk of being the victim of theft there are a variety of options for anti-theft devices.

The black market for stolen converters

A thriving black market exists for stolen catalytic converters, providing an accessible platform for thieves to profit from their illegal activities. Once stolen, converters are often sold to scrap yards, recycling centers, or shady businesses that are willing to purchase them without proper verification.

The precious metals extracted from these stolen converters are then sold to other industries or exported to countries with a high demand for these metals. The lack of strict regulations and enforcement in the recycling industry further enables the flourishing of this black market. The U.S. government and many individual states are taking measures to try to crack down on this increasingly common crime.