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Thieves target catalytic converters; becoming common occurrence.

Feb 3rd, 2008

Reported by Kimberly Birkland

Thieves in the know are now targeting the most lucrative part of your car:  its catalytic converter.  It is not rare anymore, it is a common occurrence, increasing in incidence every day within the US and UK.

Catalytic converters may seem like an odd thing to steal, but law enforcement agencies say they are being stolen at a higher rate than ever before all across the country.  Cindy Burdette, crime prevention specialist with Sacramento County Sheriff's office said Toyotas provide the biggest target because their catalytic converters can be removed the most easily.  This is not just in Sacramento or the bay area…we are talking nationwide theft in large rates.  And it is no coincidence that the three platinum, palladium, rhodium metals that have not just risen, but skyrocketed in commodity rates in the past two years, actually has something to do with this.

It has been noted nationwide that catalytic converter thefts are on the rise.  Police experts and other analysts say that it is an easy fix for a drug addict.  Most convicted felons of stealing catalytic converters are heroin addicts.  Seeming as they can get upwards of $7-$150 dollars for a stolen converter once they take it to a recycling facility, it is a very easy way for them to obtain what they need.  Drugs.  By now we all know that these converters contain three precious metals that are in heavy demand right now and surging in price and value on the stock market:  platinum, palladium, and rhodium. 

The funny thing is, thieves aren't just going after ever car, specifically they are targeting 1990's Toyota 4Runners, Tundras, and Tacomas because the converters are easy to remove.  Apparently two bolts only screw them down. 

One man who police apprehended in Oakland last year was found to have nine catalytic converters in his car, along with the one he stole, and admitted to using a blow torch to get these converters off of the automobiles.  One man's automotive part is another man's fix for addiction.  Thieves will even resort to using electric chainsaws or just chainsaws in general.  They are desperate, but it is an easy steal.  But it is not quiet…

When you get in your car the next morning and the catalytic converter has been stolen from the inside of your tailpipe, where it is used to filter out noxious emissions from polluting the environment, it makes a very loud sound. 

"It sounded like nothing I've ever heard before," said Adam, who was a victim of theft in Cincinnati.  In a five-week period in Cincinnati, police have recently investigated 28 unusual thefts on Cincinnati's west side, all involving catalytic converters.  Auto dealerships are the hardest hit. Automotive dealer lots lend thieves a great to get the most bang for their buck, because the cars are all in close proximity to each other, and they usually aren't guarded and don't have alarms.

George Graves auto sales in Cincinnati said "16 of them total that they've got off us.  They started in the back row, and then they went on down to the lower level and got a few of our, more of the sport utility ones with they're easier to get under."  GM automobiles are also a quick and easy target according to some experts because of their easy access and their prevalence of sport-utility high-centered automobile types. 

Investigators say there is very little motorists can do to protect themselves from being a victim of this crime.  Owners of vehicle lots are now hiring armed guards to watch their cars over night, they aren't taking any more risks, and the damage is just too much.

Coming up:  how your GPS satellite-navigation system could be targeted as well, and why?

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