What We Learned About Catalytic Converter Thefts At IAATI 2021 Annual Training

by Suzanna Su October 14th, 2021 in Security Resources
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 27 seconds
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Earlier this month, our team in Texas took part in the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators 2021 Annual Training in San Marcos, TX. During the event, we joined a workshop discussing the rise of catalytic converter thefts. As this worldwide issue affects way too many, understanding its motivation and learning how to deter thieves on your sites are keys to better protecting your business. Here are what we learned from the training.


Why Do They Steal Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters have become a hot commodity for fleets businesses and car dealerships. The bulbous piece of aluminum attached to vehicles contains a very precious metal, known as rhodium, targeted by thieves. Not only does this important device filter the most toxic pollutants from automobile exhausts, but the metallic component is also currently valued at more than 15 times the price of gold. National data is scarce, but news reports point to thousands of catalytic converter thefts over the past year, a crime wave that has risen with the price of rhodium, a silvery-white chemical element that is a byproduct of the production of platinum and palladium. In fact, rhodium’s market price was recorded at 30,000 US dollars per ounce compared to gold, selling at 2,200 US dollars per ounce earlier this year. The high demands but low supplies can be traced back to mining ore pieces, which contain no more than 8 to 9% of rhodium. Another reason for the phenomenon is the increase of emission standards in new cars and the requirements for catalytic converters in highly polluted cities, such as China.

Cutting a catalytic converter from a vehicle can be done very seamlessly with minimal and accessible tools from common hardware stores. As a result, catalytic converter thieves typically sales the valuable pieces to scrap merchants since the rhodium contained in them can be worth more than 400 US dollars. The metals can be sold for even more if lifted from hybrid gas-electric cars like a Prius. Unfortunately, the damages and losses of the victim are way beyond the costs of a catalytic converter. May indirect effects can include the loss of work, finding and paying for alternate transportation and then paying anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to get your vehicle fixed.

How to Protect Your Catalytic Converter?

Sgt Tracy Hicks, a reputable spokesperson for the Houston Police Department Auto Theft Crime Tasks Force, regularly produces videos for the Houston Police’s YouTube channel to inform its communities about important events and news. A recent video of his repertoire discusses why it is important to “Etch it – Paint it – Cover it” with the following prevention tips for car owners to, hopefully, reduce catalytic converter thefts:

  • Always park your vehicle in a well-lit area or garage

  • Purchase a small engraving tool and engrave the last 8 numbers of your VIN or your license plate number into the catalytic converter so police can easily identify and trace the device back to the owner when they arrest a suspect.

  • Get some high-temperature paint of bright colour and spray the entire catalytic converter so police can again easily identify and trace the device back to the owner when they arrest a suspect.

  • Search “Catalytic Converter Prevention” online to find products like a steel cable that wraps and glues around catalytic converters, which also comes with a motion detector that goes underneath the car. Another great alternative is a steal-wired cage encasing catalytic converters, making it harder for thieves to cut through. Then, there is also a complete covering for catalytic converters, specifically designed for different brands and sizes, that can be bolted to the bottom of the vehicle.

Link to the video: https://bit.ly/3AHnxv0

Preventing Catalytic Converter Thefts | Houston Police

Catalytic converter thefts will likely remain until more successful apprehension of suspects and severe punishments are enforced by businesses and the law enforcement system. At this point, the risks to rewards ratio are very low since perpetrators can easily displace the crime to another target, type and location. Are you a victim of catalytic converter thefts? Connect with Radius Security’s Specialists to learn how to fight this uprising trend and protect your business assets.

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