Catalytic converter theft is on the rise.

Larry Jacobs

The devices, usually part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, are stolen for valuable materials contained inside, including platinum, rhodium and palladium.  A combination of tiny amounts of these three metals helps to remove toxins from your vehicle’s exhaust. But they aren’t cheap: platinum goes for about $1,600 an ounce; rhodium for about $1,200; and palladium for more than $700.

A thief can get $40 to $200 for selling a stolen catalytic converter. Replacing one can cost you $1,000.

Catalytic converter thieves strike at all times of the day or night.  Stealing at night is easy — no one sees the thief — but brazen thefts can take place in broad daylight and in busy areas. No one pays attention to the thieves, who usually need only a wrench or reciprocating saw and a few minutes beneath a vehicle. An article from www.pro-vigil.com says the theft only takes three minutes and sometimes can happen even faster.

SUV’s and other vehicles with a high clearance are more vulnerable because there is more room to move around. Some thieves will even use a mechanic’s dolly to slide under the vehicle more easily.

The “part-time” catalytic converter thief will look for the easy steal.  Sometimes they will even follow a car and wait for it to park.  Organized thieves will look for the larger score.  They will strike car dealerships, mall parking lots, auto repair shop lots and fleet parking lots.

How can you reduce your chances of becoming a victim?

1)      Park in lighted areas – Though not the magic bullet to stopping theft, effective lighting can make your vehicle less vulnerable since the bad guys will be more visible at night.

2)      Video cameras – Look for video cameras in the areas where you park.  Again, not a magic bullet, but it can be a deterrent.

3)      Watch the news – Our local media can give you information on where the thefts are occurring.

4)      Spread the news – Talk to your neighbors. Talk to members of your homeowners association and neighborhood watch and to the people you work with.  Let them know that this is an issue and to be aware of it.

5)      Talk to your mechanic about welding the mounting bolts of your catalytic converter.  Most are just bolted in and are easily unscrewed.

6)      Look online and check with your mechanic about devices specifically made to secure your catalytic converter.  There are protective sleeve products and other devices that can act as deterrent.

7)      Etch you catalytic converter with a serial number or some other identifier.  This might act as a deterrent and could even help the police track down your vehicle’s catalytic converter if it is stolen.

Officer Larry Jacobs is the Crime Prevention Officer for the Sandy Springs Police Department.  He can be reached at ljacobs@sandyspringsga.gov.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.