Gone are the days when thieves ripped stereos out of cars, as the catalytic converter has become be a much more lucrative commodity.
According to the Everett Police Department, catalytic converters have been stolen from 15 vehicles since April. Located under a car, the device is designed to reduce harmful emissions as part of the vehicle’s exhaust system. Police said the high wheelbase of Ford pickup trucks and Honda CRVs have made these vehicles primary targets.
“When the metal markets go up, we start seeing an increase in these types of crimes,” said Police Chief Steven Mazzie.
According to Farmers Insurance, the medals found in catalytic converters are “more precious than gold,” thus making them very attractive to thieves. These medals include platinum, palladium and rhodium.
According to NASDAQ, palladium was valued at $2,137 per ounce as of November 21, platinum was valued at $1,056 per ounce and rhodium was valued at a lofty $11,100 per ounce. In contrast, the value of gold per ounce was $1,854.
Mazzie also said vehicle owners will find out very quickly if their catalytic converter has been stolen. “As soon as you turn on that car, it’s not going to sound the same,” said Mazzie, adding that the engine would be significantly louder.
He said it is also relatively simple to steal a catalytic converter, as a wrench or reciprocating saw is all that is needed.
Once the device has been stolen, thieves will then sell it to scrap recycling facilities for $800 to $1,500. Therefore, Mazzie said, he would like to see legislation passed requiring scrap recyclers to find out where and how an item, such as a catalytic converter, was obtained. “You want to make it uncomfortable for people to sell these things,” he said.
Should a catalytic converter be stolen, the replacement cost is anything but cheap. According to Auto Zone, the part alone can cost up to $2,500 with labor charges running as high as $130 per hour.
David Glawe, president of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said such thefts have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As the value of the precious metals contained within the catalytic converters continues to increase, so do the number of thefts of these devices,” he said. “There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals.”