What You Need to Know About Catalytic Converter Theft and Why You Should Care?

Posted by Shawna Ivy on May 19, 2021

What can you do in two minutes? Brush your teeth. Load the dishwasher. Send an email. Post on social media. These are all small tasks. They barely affect our day. There's something big and expensive you may not realize can take fewer than two minutes – catalytic converter theft. It greatly affects dealership security.

People probably won’t notice the theft until they start the vehicle. The sound will provide a loud clue that something has gone wrong. People who drive a sedan will suddenly find their car sounding like a hot rod or a motorcycle. A vehicle with a missing catalytic converter will still operate and drive. Yet, somehow it won't feel right.

Is catalytic converter theft a real problem? According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 2018 saw an average of 108 catalytic converter thefts per month. In 2019, the number of stolen converters climbed to 282 per month. Then it got worse.

In 2020, the number of stolen converters multiplied to an average of 1,203 per month. The year finished on a low note as 2,347 catalytic converters were stolen in the month of December 2020 alone!

Why Is Catalytic Converter Theft Happening?

A catalytic converter converts harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions prior to exiting the exhaust system. The catalyst part of the name refers to precious metals. These may be gold, platinum, palladium, or rhodium. They're fitted to the vehicle's exhaust.

The metal case has a ceramic honeycombed structure to move the exhaust gases through the converter. Automotive manufacturers coat the ceramic structure with precious metals. These act as catalysts to modify and increase the rate of the chemical reaction without being consumed. The converters turn harmful hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide into safer water vapor and carbon monoxide.

These metals are where the money is. Currently, palladium and rhodium have a higher value than gold. Thus, thieves sell catalytic converters to metal recyclers. They could be worth anywhere from $20 to $200. It's the recyclers who benefit most from the sale. They can extract the metals and resell them for as high as $6,000 per ounce. Currently, rhodium sells for $28,800 per ounce according to a 5NBCDFW news story.

How Catalytic Converter Theft Affects Vehicles

The vehicle owner who is the victim of catalytic converter theft will most likely pay $2,000 or more for a replacement and the labor to install it. Getting it replaced isn't the only upsetting part of the theft. It's possible for thieves to damage the vehicle's wiring or fuel line while stealing the converter.

This damage could render the vehicle dangerous and dramatically increase the cost of repair. If nothing else gets damaged during the theft, the owner can continue driving the vehicle. However, the law requires having the catalytic converter in some areas.

The process is simple. Crooks crawl under the vehicle and saw off the converter. It takes under two minutes. Some catalytic converter thieves can pull it off in one minute. That's all it takes to remove the precious metals attached to the exhaust.

How Can Drivers Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft?

Gearist states no one can prevent catalytic converter theft. It can happen to any vehicle including those not on the list of vehicles with the most stolen catalytic converters. The article shares three ways drivers can make it harder for someone to steal the converter.

One is to park in crowded areas that are well lit. Of course, thieves would prefer to work in the dark isolated area. However, some brash crooks, especially those who can steal the converter within a minute, will grab one from anywhere.

The best option is to park in a private garage and keep the door closed. However, that's not always possible as some parking lots and parking garages are out in the open, meaning anyone can walk in. If you park near your home, use motion-sensor lights.

The second option is to add a catalytic converter anti-theft device. Unfortunately, these are not 100 percent theft-proof. The final option is to drive an electric car because it does not need a catalytic converter. What about hybrids? They tend to have more precious metals in their converters than non-hybrids making them a more attractive target.

One more thing worth noting. Gearist mentions security cameras.

"Unfortunately, a camera won't do much for stopping theft, but it may help the police after the fact," Jay writes. "At the very least you'll have a video to put on YouTube of someone stealing your catalytic converter."

This refers to personal cameras at home. Businesses, on the other hand, have great options with video cameras. Read on to find out more.

What Can Businesses Do About Catalytic Converter Theft?

Just about every business needs to be concerned about catalytic converter theft. After all, most businesses have a parking lot or covered parking garage. So, office buildings, apartments, shopping centers, commercial buildings, and most certainly, auto dealerships, all need to protect the vehicles on their properties.

Criminals love parking lots because they contain many unattended vehicles. Parking spaces tend not to be well lit or have much traffic. The two things that are recommended to prevent theft.

No business or multifamily residential property is safe. "Apartment complexes were good targets due to many cars in one area, plus there are not usually many surveillance cameras like in subdivisions," said one anonymous burglar in an interview with ClarksvilleNOW.

Crooks heavily target dealerships. One Texas dealership has seen 21 catalytic converters removed from new cars in a matter of weeks. An expert interviewed by 5NBCDFW says the average cost of repairs can go up to $3500. Thanks to a limited supply due to the pandemic, it can take more than a month to fix. The story goes on to say the situation is so bad that Plano, Texas police has started a catalytic converter theft task force.

No parking lot is safe. Thieves even target high schools. One high school had three stolen in one day according to Click2Houston. "Law enforcement says since fewer people have been commuting during the pandemic, there have been fewer targets in normal locations such as grocery stores and business parking lots. The thieves are looking for atypical targets these days like high school parking lots," reports the Houston news station.

How to Deter Catalytic Converter Theft

As Gearist advises, video cameras can help catch the thieves after they make off with the converter. However, this doesn't have to be the case with business-grade video surveillance. These are the kind of cameras businesses use to monitor the property and they actually help deter crimes.

Unlike most passive dealership security options, live video surveillance takes a proactive approach. What makes this different is that artificial intelligence and trained operating monitors have eyes across your entire property. Because of this, they can typically catch a potential problem before anything happens.

For instance, it's after hours at a shopping center. There are still cars in the parking lot, but the stores are closed to the public. Artificial intelligence scans the scene for any one of its many programmed scenarios. One of those is a person walking on the property before he or she reaches the vehicle. In this case, the artificial intelligence will alert the on-duty operator who issues an audio warning over the remote speaker.

If this doesn't stop the intruder, then the operator calls the police and continues to track the person's movements. Often, law enforcement arrives before the criminal escapes. This is one of many benefits of live video surveillance. It maximizes your security investment by having eyes across your entire property and can deliver a fast ROI.

Here are some parking area videos to show you what video surveillance can do:

Defending your parking lot from thieves is crucial for protecting people, your assets, and everyone's vehicles. When you invest in remote video surveillance, you'll reap the benefits of saving on costs, reducing your liability, and adding layers of security.

Catalytic converter thefts are soaring at an astronomical rate. It's creating problems for any business and property with a parking lot filled with cars. This is especially true for automotive dealerships.

You have access to innovative security solutions when you work with Stealth Monitoring. Some of the most effective options include video surveillance with integrated analytics and video verification. What many security companies don't have is a partnership with local police departments in North America. Stealth does. Law enforcement tends to respond faster when the call comes from a Stealth operator.

The key components of your parking lot security depend on your business and the property. Consider working with a video surveillance company's security adviser. The adviser can conduct an evaluation of your business and property. You'll receive recommendations that fit your requirements and budget.

If you'd like to learn more about business security and how it can do more than catch criminals, check out the complete guide to securing your property. To learn more about automotive security and customizing a system that fits your needs, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Guards & Savings, Video Monitoring