Dramatic Increase in Catalytic Converter Theft

Thefts are increasing as employees return to the office and their cars are left unattended.

Last Updated:
May 28, 2024
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min Read
Noelle Baldwin
Marketing Content Manager
LiveView Technologies

Nothing ticks a person off faster than car trouble, which is funny since cars are basically ticking time bombs. As with anything mechanical, it is only a matter of time before your fuel pump goes out, the alternator quits alternating (or whatever an alternator does), the tires become threadbare, the struts wear out, or the timing belt breaks. We may drive around naively thinking that our car won’t break, that our car is different. Newsflash—it’s not. No matter how new or how many upgrades it has, it will break. When it comes to cars it’s not a matter of if it will break, but what will break. As for the timing, it will always break at the most inconvenient time—while you’re road tripping to grandma’s house for Sunday dinner or you’re already late for an important meeting with the CEO or when you’re rushing to make kickoff for the big game.

That’s why it’s even more frustrating when the damage to your car is the result of thieves or vandals. Cars already break enough on their own, why add more pain and suffering to an already universal issue? Sadly, this logic will not dissuade wrong doers. Cars are targeted by thieves and vandals because they are valuable (or have something valuable locked inside) and are readily available targets. Just look out the window at the office parking lot. How many cars are there with little to no supervision? 100? 200?

For example, more and more cars are targeted for their catalytic converters. It doesn’t matter if your car is limping into the parking lot each morning, if it is a 1975 model year or newer, it has a catalytic converter that is easily accessible to thieves.

What is a catalytic converter?

The catalytic converter is located beneath every vehicle between the exhaust manifold and the muffler. Its job is to convert some of the emissions into less harmful byproducts by using noble metals as catalysts for reduction and oxidation (redox) reactions. Thieves steal the converters because the noble metals—rhodium, platinum, and palladium—are some of the rarest and most valuable precious metals. Currently, rhodium is selling for $14,100 per troy ounce, platinum is selling for $974 per troy ounce, and palladium is selling for $1,991 per troy ounce. Catalytic converters only have a couple grams of each metal which have to be extracted by a recycling plant. Typically, the thieves will never see the metals extracted, but they will earn a few hundred bucks by selling the stolen catalytic converters to the plant. Meanwhile, the vehicle owner will have to pay $1,000 to $3,000 to replace the stolen converter.

Cars are easy targets. They spend hours per day parked outside office buildings, stores, and restaurants without any special security. Furthermore, catalytic converter theft takes mere minutes. All the thief has to do is crawl under the vehicle and saw it off.

Across the country, theft of catalytic converters is dramatically increasing. In fact, according to a recent study, catalytic converter theft was up 244% across the country with more than 49,600 thefts reported. In 2020, only 14,433 thefts were reported across the United States. 

Some locations do try to protect the vehicles on their property and have cameras or guards, but clever criminals can slip around these. For example, my brother-in-law’s catalytic converter was stolen off of his truck while he was at work even though his employer pays guards to patrol the parking lot. They even had surveillance footage, albeit of poor quality, of the thief cutting off his converter. But by the end of the day when my brother-in-law noticed it was missing, the thief was long gone. Other than creating a massive headache for my brother-in-law, it also creates liability and problems for his employer. My brother-in-law’s truck wasn’t the only one hit that day, but what else can his employer do to protect their employees since they already pay for security?

The answer is to patch up the holes in their security and not rely on passive security or, in other words, hidden cameras. My brother-in-law’s employer was already trying to mix passive and active security by using patrolling guards and stagnate cameras. However, thieves still found the holes. While the guards were in a different section of the parking lot, they slipped in. Did they see the cameras? Probably. But they also knew that by the time someone thought to check the footage they would be gone.

LiveView Technologies (LVT) helps companies fill the gap between active security (guards) and passive surveillance (cameras). Our security camera trailers rely heavily on active deterrence but also use advanced security analytics to give property owners and/or their security team an opportunity to intervene and the tools to do so. 

Here’s what that means

Our trailers are equipped with high-definition cameras, flashing lights, a two-way speaker and more. When an intrusion is detected, an alert is sent to the unit’s manager and they can instantly log in to the feed and see what is happening. They can then talk through the two-way speaker, turn on lights, play a prerecorded audio message, and even contact the proper authorities all within seconds of receiving the alert.

Unlike the useless footage of the thief crawling under my brother-in-law’s truck, footage from a LVT Unit is clear and end users can see incidents in real-time, not hours after the fact. The best part is our units will often deter thieves from committing a crime. See an example of this in the video below. This company had an issue with catalytic converter thefts from their fleet, placed a LVT Unit on their property, and saw an immediate difference.

To learn more about how LVT can prevent catalytic converter theft and protect your fleet, employees’ vehicles, or customers’ cars, watch this webinar. 

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