What Can Be Done to Stop Catalytic Converter Thefts?

Posted by Robert Poe on June 9, 2022

If you could make a few thousand dollars doing something simple that only takes two minutes, would you? That's an attractive idea, right? But you wonder what's the catch. The catch is that it's catalytic converter theft. It's an illegal activity that's happening in droves because it pays well. Crooks already break laws, so they're breaking the law doing something that takes a minute or two with a high reward.

Catalytic converter theft has gotten so bad that the government is cracking down on it. Before delving into laws, it helps to understand what catalytic converters are and what's prompting the dramatic increase in catalytic converter thefts.

Why Are Catalytic Converters Being Stolen?

A catalytic converter converts harmful pollutants into less toxic gases before coming out of a vehicle's exhaust system and being released into the environment. You'll find the converter underneath vehicles. The auto part contains metals that are fitted to the vehicle's exhaust. These metals can be gold, platinum, palladium, or rhodium. They're worth a lot of money. Rhodium initially costs under $1,000. At press time, it was selling for almost $20,000!

The metal case includes a ceramic honeycombed structure for pushing the exhaust gases through the converter. Automotive manufacturers coat this ceramic structure with precious metals. The metal acts as a catalyst by modifying and increasing the rate of the chemical reaction without being consumed. As a result, harmful hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide are converted into safer water vapor and carbon monoxide.

The process to steal one is simple and can be done in 30 to 90 seconds. Organized crime gangs crawl under many vehicles and cut off the converter. That's all it takes to obtain the converter with the metals attached to the exhaust. As if this isn't bad enough. These gangs are dangerous and often have guns. Do not confront these criminals. They may respond with violence.

People may not notice their catalytic converters have been stolen until they start their vehicles. The sound of the car will issue a loud warning that something has gone wrong. It's still possible to drive a vehicle with a missing catalytic converter. A sedan without the auto part will sound like a hot rod or a motorcycle.

Is catalytic converter theft still a growing problem now? A Fox News report shares statistics.

"Police in Minneapolis have reported a nearly 38% jump in catalytic converter theft compared to this time last year. Dallas has seen a 20% increase, and Philadelphia police have seen a 172% increase. According to Las Vegas Police Department data, officers have seen a roughly 87% hike. St. Paul Police report a nearly 20% increase."

Police officers may pull over a vehicle with multiple catalytic converters. However, the officers cannot arrest the suspects because there's no way to prove they stole the auto parts. Minnesota's Department of Commerce is trying to change this. They've partnered with car dealerships and local police departments to tag catalytic converters with labels. This will help law enforcement to track them and charge thieves.

How Catalytic Converter Theft Affects Vehicles and Businesses

Victims of catalytic converter theft are likely to pay $2,000 or more for a replacement and the labor to install the replacement part. In some cases, thieves end up damaging other parts of the vehicle while stealing the converter, such as the wiring or fuel line.

Unfortunately, this damage can dramatically increase the cost of the repair and render the vehicle undrivable as it would be dangerous to drive it. Aside from the stolen part, if the vehicle isn't harmed, the driver can safely use the vehicle. However, the law in some jurisdictions requires vehicles to have a catalytic converter.

These thefts affect a lot of people and businesses. Multifamily residential buildings, office buildings, retail stores have to worry about these thefts as their customers and residents park their vehicles in the parking garage or lot for the business. Scrap yards and recyclers need to be on the alert for stolen parts.

As you can probably guess, automobile dealerships are big targets. Not only must they deal with the cost to replace the converters and the damage the theft might cost, but they must also contend with downtime and potentially angry customers.

If the catalytic converter theft occurs to a vehicle that is in for service, then the dealership will have to contact their customer to let them know which will likely upset them. If the theft happens to a new car, it obviously can’t be sold until a replacement part is found. And that can take up to six months due to the parts shortage.

Here are two more examples of how catalytic converter thefts can affect not only vehicles, but businesses.

A pest control company’s truck has its catalytic converter stolen. The business is now down one truck for months, which means they won’t be able to service as many customers.

A trash collection business is short a truck because someone stole its catalytic converter. Their employees must now service 20 percent more homes to cover the workload of the downed truck.

Fortunately, something can be done to help prevent catalytic converter thefts. People can push their city and state representatives to take action. And businesses can bolster security.

Connecticut Lawmakers Take Action

The biggest problem is that there are businesses that are accepting these stolen goods and paying for them. That's what lawmakers in Connecticut are trying to prevent from happening. The Middletown Press reports that after a 10-minute debate, the Connecticut senate unanimously approved legislation related to catalytic converter thefts. The goal of the bill is to stop these from being sold to metal recyclers, junk yards, and scrap dealers.

If the House of Representatives passes the bill, then it will make it illegal for scrap metal recyclers and junk yards to buy catalytic converters that are not part of a vehicle. The dealers will also have to keep records of identification numbers and receipts. The lawmakers hope that it will push dealers and recyclers to review their acquisitions before payout.

What Houston City Council Is Doing About Catalytic Converter Thefts

According to Community Impact Newspaper, Houston City Council has passed an ordinance to put a stop to catalytic converter thefts. Similar to Connecticut's bill, Houston's ordinance targets metal recyclers and resellers. The ordinance makes it illegal to buy any cut catalytic converters unless they come with proof of ownership of the associated vehicle.

The industry standard is to unbolt a catalytic converter. They never cut it off. Therefore, a cut catalytic converter should raise suspicion. Anyone caught with a stolen catalytic converter will be arrested for a Class C misdemeanor.

Moreover, the ordinance requires dealers who acquire catalytic converters to upload their business transactions to a law enforcement database. This will close a reporting cap for the Houston Police Department. They will be able to follow up on any suspicious transactions.

Connecticut and Houston aren't the only ones pushing for legislation. The aforementioned Fox News story says Minnesota state senators are working on legislation to do something about these thefts. California, Oklahoma, and Washington have introduced legislation.

What Can Businesses Do About Catalytic Converter Theft?

Legislation to help reduce the number of catalytic converter thefts is a great start. Still, your business can do something about it. Businesses need to put up barriers to deter catalytic converter theft in their parking lot or covered parking garage.

Organized crime gangs target parking lots because they can cut off many catalytic converters from multiple unattended vehicles. Parking areas tend to have poor lighting or little traffic. Therefore, apartments, office buildings, commercial buildings, and auto dealerships need to protect the vehicles on their properties.

Criminals go after dealerships. A Texas dealership has had 21 catalytic converters removed from new cars over a few weeks. 5NBCDFW interviewed an expert who says the average cost of repairs can go up to $3,500. With the supply chain still limping along, it can take a long time before the repair is done. It's such a serious problem that Plano, Texas police have created a task force focused on catalytic converter theft.

How to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft

Video surveillance cameras with analytic remote monitoring can help deter catalytic converter theft and catch thieves who try to get away with them. Unlike most traditional security options that provide passive security, remote video surveillance takes a proactive approach. The reason it's proactive is because video analytics and trained operating monitors watch your entire property. This makes it possible to spot suspicious events before anything happens.

For example, it's nighttime at a car dealership. No one is around.. Any movement within the dealership will trigger video analytics.. Once video analytics notice people walking on the property during these late hours it will notify the on-duty trained monitoring operator. The operator, located elsewhere away from the property could issue an audio warning over the remote speaker.

If the warning doesn’t avert the suspects, then the operator can call law enforcement. They can continue following the suspects until the police arrive on the scene. In many scenarios, law enforcement will get there before the suspects get away. This is one of many advantages of remote video surveillance. It helps maximize your security investment by having eyes across your entire property at all times. That's why many businesses see a return on investment within months.

Here are some videos of auto parts and catalytic converter theft to show you what video surveillance can do:

Catalytic converter thefts are soaring at an exorbitant rate. It's creating problems for any business and property with a parking lot filled with cars. Securing your property, especially the parking areas, goes a long way in protecting people, your assets, and everyone's vehicles. Remote video surveillance can save on costs, reduce your liability, and adds layers of security.

When you choose to work with Stealth Monitoring, you gain access to innovative security solutions. Also, you get another benefit that few security companies offer. Law enforcement typically reacts faster when a call comes from Stealth because they know they have video verification of something happening.

If you'd like to learn more about business security and how it can do more than catch criminals, check out the guide that shows how remote video monitoring is a crime deterrent. To learn more about automotive security and customizing a system that fits your needs, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Video Monitoring