by Joyce Tremel
For several years, I’ve nagged people to keep their cars locked even if they’re parked in their driveways. Now I’ve discovered that’s not good enough.
Although copper pipe thefts from houses is still big, the latest crime wave is the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles. What’s a catalytic converter, you ask? It’s an emissions control device that is located under the car on the muffler. A thief with a Sawzall can remove it in as little as two minutes. In Shaler, we’ve had several reports where cat converters were stolen from vehicles in a car dealer’s lot and from several auto repair facilities. It appears to be a nationwide problem.
Catalytic converters contain three precious metals--platinum, rhodium and palladium. Market prices for these metals range from about $350 an ounce for palladium to over $5000 an ounce for rhodium. Scrap dealers who advertise in the local Green Sheet are buying catalytic converters for $100 a piece. If a thief steals a dozen in an hour, that’s a nice payday. Scrap dealers then sell them to companies who remove the precious metals. If you have one stolen from your car, it could cost over $2000 to replace it, depending on the vehicle.
Fortunately, few of these thefts occur in residential neighborhoods. Thieves target places they can do multiple vehicles without being seen. A Sawzall firing up in someone’s driveway might draw a little too much attention. Most thefts seem to occur in places like Park and Ride lots, car dealers, or auto repair shops where people leave their cars overnight. Last week, I had an appointment to have my car inspected. In the past, we’d drop the car off the night before, but this time we waited until morning. I’d rather be inconvenienced than have a huge repair bill.
All in all, I guess some of these thieves aren't as dumb as we think. Stealing catalytic converters sounds like an easy way to make $1200 an hour. Anyone got a Sawzall?