Why It’s Important For Businesses to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

More thieves are targeting office building lots, store parking lots, and car dealerships for catalytic converters. But what are they and how can you prevent it from happening to your employees, customers, and fleets?

Last Updated:
April 17, 2024
| ~
min Read
By
Noelle Baldwin
,
Marketing Content Manager
,
LiveView Technologies

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise. But what is it? Why are thieves targeting your business parking lot and how do you prevent it?

You are the owner of precious metals, and you probably didn't even know it. Platinum, palladium, and rhodium are three precious metals that more than 91% of Americans own. That’s surprising when you know how valuable they are. Platinum sells for $893 per troy ounce, palladium sells for $2,209 per troy ounce, and rhodium tops the charts at $13,850 per troy ounce. A troy ounce is about 31.1 grams, or the equivalent of 31 paperclips. Each metal is part of the platinum group metals (PGMs). They are found together in mineral deposits in multiple continents and are known for their purity. The PGMs have high melting points and possess unique catalytic properties, meaning they cause or accelerate a chemical reaction. Of the three, rhodium is the rarest, only occurring in platinum ores mixed with other metals and comprising an estimated 0.0002 parts per million on the entire planet.

You own a grand total of 3–7 grams of platinum, 2–7 grams of palladium, and 1–2 grams of rhodium. These metals are often valued higher than gold. Well you did own them. In the time it took you to read about precious metals, a thief could be stealing your entire stockpile. Now, if you were to read it again the imaginary thief will be gone, taking all of the precious metals right from under your car. Yes, your car in the form of your catalytic converter.

While the information in the italicized paragraphs is important to catalytic theft prevention, its length is the main point. Combined, the paragraphs equal exactly 238 words, or the number of words an average adult reads per minute. If you read it twice, you just spent the same amount of time reading as the average thief needs to saw off a catalytic converter. Surprised? Seems too short, right? In just two minutes, a thief can cause between $900 and $2,500 in damages. 

What is a catalytic converter?

Every vehicle manufactured since 1975 has a catalytic converter. It is part of the exhaust system and is located under the vehicle between the exhaust manifold and the muffler, typically towards the back. The catalytic converter helps reduce emissions by turning harmful compounds into safe gasses. This is done with the aid of those precious metals mentioned above.

Inside the catalytic converter the metals line a honeycomb structure that the emissions flow through. The metals cause a chemical reaction that breaks the pollutants apart.

Why are they being stolen?

Catalytic converter theft is increasing dramatically across the United States. According to Car and Driver, there were more than 50,000 catalytic converters stolen off of parked cars in the United States in 2021. While that is a massive amount, it’s even more staggering when you know that about 14,500 were stolen in 2020 and only around 3,400 were stolen in 2019.  But why are they being stolen?

It all goes back to the precious metals inside the converters. Thieves steal the converter so they can resell it to recycling facilities who extract the metals. Now, before you go saw off your own catalytic converter in search of that $14,000 paycheck, remember that a catalytic converter will only have a few grams of each metal in them. Thieves will typically only make around $250 per converter if it comes from a traditional combustion engine or about $1,500 if it comes from a hybrid vehicle.

How are they stolen?

Catalytic converter thieves are slippery. They target cars parked in large lots because they can come and go easily and blend in with any other foot traffic. Also parking lots aren’t exactly Fort Knox. They tend to have minimal security so there is little chance for thieves to be caught.

Stealing a catalytic converter is surprisingly easy—a thief slides under a car and uses a battery powered saw to cut it loose. 

It hurts your business.

Post COVID-19 business is hard enough without thieves driving away customers and employees. Maybe you just got customers to come back to your store or employees back in the office. Or maybe you just barely took that “Help Wanted” poster out of your window. Now thanks to some thieves you are losing honest customers and employees. As a business owner, you have an obligation to keep people safe while they are on your property. The safety of their vehicles will naturally take lower priority than their personal safety, but the frequency of thefts can and will drive customers and employees away from your location.

It can also hurt your business in more direct ways. If you own a fleet, catalytic converter thefts hurt your profits because you have to spend some of your hard-earned cash to repair your vans and trucks. It can also cause delays in service or deliveries for customers while you repair the damage.

Car dealerships are the hardest hit when thieves strike because it directly affects their inventory. It not only costs time and money to replace stolen converters, but suddenly cars that were brand new can not be sold as new. And if thieves target used car lots, the dealers’ profits go from a few thousand per vehicle to close to nothing.

How to prevent catalytic converter theft on my property?

The real question is how do you stop catalytic converter theft? Cars will continue to have catalytic converters and the bulk of your customers and employees will continue to drive to your business. 

Catalytic converter theft is a crime of opportunity and exists because it is so easy. So the key is to reduce opportunity. If it is harder to steal catalytic converters from your property, the thieves will not attempt to steal from you, your customers, or your employees.

While it is near impossible to stop it entirely, there are a few methods you can use to reduce opportunity and protect cars on your property. They are:

  1. Encourage staff and customers to park closer to the front of the building
  2. Install lighting around the parking lot
  3. Weld anti-theft devices to catalytic converters on your fleet
  4. Employ guards
  5. Deploy security cameras

While these strategies are not perfect, they increase the difficulty for thieves and decrease the likelihood that your property will be targeted.

One way to secure your property is with mobile surveillance trailers from LVT (LiveView Technologies). The first thing you should know about LVT Units is they are big. They take up an entire parking stall, but that is purposeful. LVT wants potential thieves and honest visitors to instantly see the cameras. Thieves see the unit and automatically know you mean business—that you're stepping up security and will defend your property. Honest visitors like customers and employees will see it and know that they are safer because of the units. 

The second thing you should know about LVT Units is that they don’t require any hardwired connections for power or communication. They use a combination of solar panels, batteries, cellular connectivity, and cloud storage so they can literally go anywhere on your property. 

Lastly, you should know that they work. LVT Units can help prevent catalytic converter thefts. They are equipped with multiple cameras, lights, and a two-way speaker that all help scare thieves away from your property. Watch it work in the video below.

Interested in learning how you can protect your property? Contact us for your free demo.

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