Catalytic Converters and Receiving Stolen Property: Who Should Police Be After?
Every few years, if the economy is especially bad or the price of precious metals skyrockets, we see an uptick in thefts of catalytic converters.
For the last 18 months, at least, they have been significant in southeastern Pennsylvania. The storage facility we manage has been hit once. Others in our area have been hit multiple times. A truck manufacturing plant near Morgantown, PA, had a loot full of new vehicles hit a few months ago, doing more than $100,000 in damage.
Catalytic converters are a small section of the exhaust system of gasoline powered vehicles. They sit between the engine and muffler and use precious metals to convert exhaust to less dangerous gases.
Cars.com explains that the platinum, palladium and rhodium that thieves are after.
“Priced by the ounce, platinum went from an average of about $530 per ounce in 2001 to about $1,100 in 2021 after it reached a high of $1,700 in 2011. Palladium went from an average price of $600 per ounce in 2001 to a high of nearly $2,400 in 2021.
But it’s rhodium that’s been the most volatile. After averaging roughly $1,600 per ounce in 2001, it jumped to an average of about $18,000 in 2021, with a high that year of nearly $26,000. By contrast, gold went from about $300 per ounce in 2001 to roughly $1,800 in 2021, a sixfold increase.”
On July 26, 2022, rhodium was about $14,850 an ounce.
Though the typical catalytic converter only has 1–2 grams of rhodium (there are about 28 grams in an ounce), those skyrocketing prices had scrap metal dealers paying premium prices. And that is part of the problem.
According to an officer with my local police department, thieves were getting about $300, sometimes far less, for each catalytic converter they stole. But the average vehicle owner was paying ten times that much to repair the damage, and often having to wait month on end if the vehicle was larger, like an F250 or bigger box trucks.
When they are caught, thieves are looking at felon theft charges in most states, but they are particularly hard to catch.
That’s because the catalytic converter is generally attached to the rest of the car by two pipes, one to the engine and the other to the muffler. Specialized thieves can literally roll under the vehicle and have the catalytic converter…