Stolen catalytic converters on the rise
By Kathy Feist
On January 21, Lyle Roach strolled outside to start the transportation van parked behind Sherwood Autism Center near 80th and Ward Parkway. As he started the van, he noticed a loud sound from the engine. It wasn’t long before he discovered that the van and two others owned by the Sherwood Center had been victims of catalytic converter thieves.
Stolen catalytic converters, devices attached to the bottoms of cars to control pollutant emissions, have become the latest trend worldwide. In Kansas City the number of catalytic converters stolen jumped from 158 in 2019 to 806 in 2020–a whopping 410% increase–according to the Kansas City Police Department. And already during the first six weeks of this year 266 catalytic converters have been reported as stolen. The problem is happening with all makes and models of vehicles.
Thefts are increasing because the price of precious metals inside converters (platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold) is on the rise. The reasons for the trend range from price increases in the metals market, stricter international car emissions rules, particularly in China which is scrambling to reduce its air pollution problem, and a decrease in mining production for rhodium in South Africa due to the pandemic. Regardless, it only takes minutes for a thief to run off with the device and sell it to a metal recycler for $20-$200. The recyclers extract the metal and resell it for as much as $6,000 an ounce, in the case of rhodium.
Meanwhile the cost for victims is around $2,000. Sherwood Autism Center was able to get one transportation van fixed. The other two will have to wait for funds to appear. (To help with funding, you can donate at www.sherwoodcenter.org.)
To avoid having a catalytic converter stolen, Kansas City police suggest these preventative measures:
- Install theft prevention devices – Auto part accessory stores sell items like CatClamps and CAT Defenders to secure catalytic converters. Under-car alarm systems also are available. A quick online search for “catalytic converter theft prevention” reveals a number of possible tools.
- Be careful where you park – If you have a garage, park your vehicle inside and keep the door closed if you’re not in the garage. Otherwise, park in a well-lit area. Make the undercarriage of the vehicle hard to access by placing a removable parking curb under the car or if the vehicle is inactive, deflate the tires.
- Mark your catalytic converter – The easier it is for police to connect a stolen catalytic converter to a vehicle in a theft report, the better for arrest and prosecution. Catalytic converters have no identifying numbers on them. Mark your catalytic converters with a UV pen with a personal identification number. It could be the car’s VIN. The number will only show up under UV light.
- Report thefts immediately – Police are recovering stolen catalytic converters on a daily basis. The sooner you file a report with law enforcement, the more likely officers can link it to your vehicle and get the case prosecuted.
- Share theft videos with law enforcement – If you have captured a catalytic converter theft on video, please share it with law enforcement as soon as possible. This helps police identify suspects.