Auto Theft, Thefts from Motor Vehicles, and Catalytic Converter Thefts
- Lock your car. Take your keys.
- Never hide a spare key on the vehicle.
- Roll up windows completely.
- Remove keys from ignition.
- Park in well-lighted areas.
- When parking in attended lots or parking garages, leave only the ignition key with the attendant.
- Park as close as possible to an open business.
- Do not leave valuables in sight to tempt a thief.
- Always park with the wheels turned toward the curb.
- Back your car into the driveway. If you drive forward into the driveway, a car thief could raise the hood to hot wire the car, and it would appear to the neighbors that you were just working on the car.
- If you have a garage, use it.
- Lock your garage door.
- Never leave your car running while it is unattended.
Common sense and a layered combination of anti-theft devices are recommended to help prevent your vehicle from being stolen. All vehicle theft prevention equipment helps deter criminals. The following are types of anti-theft devices that can be used to protect your vehicle:
- Steering Wheel Lock: A long metal bar with a lock that fits on a steering wheel and is designed to prevent the steering wheel from being turned. Also acts as a visual deterrent for thieves looking in car windows. Cost range: $25 to $100.
- Car Alarms: Typically equipped with motion sensors, impact sensors and a loud siren or series of tones in the 120-decibel range. Cost range: $150 to $1,000.
- Kill Switches: A hidden switch that needs to be flipped on for the car to start, otherwise preventing the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine. Cost range: $10 to $125.
- Electronic Tracking Devices: An electronic transmitter hidden in the vehicle emits a signal that is picked up by the police or a monitoring station. Cost range: $400 to $1,500.
- Electronic Keys: Pre-installed electronic anti-theft systems that allow the vehicle to operate only with a correctly coded key. Cost range: Standard equipment on some cars.
- Steering Column Armored Collars: Prevent thieves from breaking into the steering column to "hot-wire" vehicles, some are installed permanently and others must be installed manually each time the driver leaves the vehicle. Cost range: $100 to $200 installed.
- Tire Locks: Similar to the circular steel "boots" used by many larger city police departments; make the car nearly impossible to move. Cost range: $80 to $200.
- Window Etching: Vehicle identification number (VIN) etched onto the windows, as well as other parts of the car, to discourage thieves and aid in recovering the vehicle if it is stolen. Cost range: $20 to $100 (some vehicle theft prevention groups provide etching for free).
- Theft Deterrent Decals: Typical decals identify the vehicle as protected by either an alarm system or a national theft prevention company. Cost range: $2 to $5.
Catalytic Converter Theft Information
Four Quick facts
- Stolen catalytic converters sell for ~$40 - $200 each.
- They can cost ~$1000 to replace.
- Thieves are known to strike in broad daylight, in busy areas.
- SUVs and other vehicles with high clearance are especially vulnerable.
What makes a Catalytic Converter so Valuable?
There are three types of metals that help the catalytic converter remove toxins from the vehicles’ emissions: platinum, palladium and rhodium. The prices of these already valuable metals has shot up hundreds of dollars an ounce in recent years. It’s the tiny amounts of these metals on the screens inside the catalytic converter that makes them so valuable. With the prices of palladium on the rise, platinum nearly tripling in value (selling for more than $1500 per ounce) and rhodium selling at 18 times its 2003 value, stealing converters is an easy target for thieves seeking fast cash. Palladium is worth about 40 percent more now than it was five years ago.
Tools of the Catalytic Converter Thief
Stealing a catalytic converter takes either a wrench or a cordless reciprocating saw. In some cases thieves are using mechanics dollies to slide under vehicles more easily.
How Long it Takes to Steal One? About 3 minutes. That’s to either unbolt it or use the reciprocating saw to cut it out. Good thieves are even faster.
How Catalytic Converter Thieves Work: The occasional or “opportunity” catalytic converter thieves go prowling when their drugs wear off. They look for easy steals - SUVs are favorite targets. Toyota SUVs especially because their catalytic converters are only bolted on. Sometimes they even follow cars and wait for them to park. These are often the ones who strike non-business targets and they go on sprees of theft that last several hours or sometimes days. Some drive vans which offer some concealment when parked next to the victim car. The more organized catalytic converter thieves look for larger scores. They attack car dealership lots, the parking lots at auto repair shops, auto fleet parking locations, and poorly attended parking lots. They are better equipped, faster, and work as teams to make larger scores. These are the crews more likely to steal from businesses and larger organizations with higher concentrations of vehicles.
Eight Ways to Deter Catalytic Converter Theft
Always park your vehicle in an area that allows the most visibility to passersby. The riskiest places to leave your vehicle are the places where vehicles are left long term, (such as auto repair shops), and parking lots with closely parked cars allowing organized thieves to hit several cars at once. Always take note of the security precautions taken and ask if you have any doubts.
Effective Security Lighting
Lighting is vital to reducing catalytic converter theft. Though the opportunity thieves are getting bold enough to strike in busy areas in broad daylight, the more organized thieves won’t be so brazen. They are more professional and bit more risk averse. Good security lighting makes your vehicles visible to the street without creating glare.
Live Video Surveillance
For some residents it might make sense to install video cameras. The cost of replacing the converter will be less than buying a video camera.
Monitor Your Local News
The less organized opportunity thieves fall into quickly recognizable patterns in local areas. Monitor your local news to maybe give you an idea of when there are catalytic converter thieves in high activity in your area.
Spread Community Awareness
If you hear about catalytic converter thefts in your neighborhood or even suffer the theft of a catalytic converter from your vehicle then consider getting the word out in some way to others in your area. The opportunity catalytic converter thieves often strike locally and repeatedly in their crime spree. Call your friends and neighbors in the area, knock on the doors of your neighbors and post fliers. Make a police report so the police know about the crime in your area.
If your catalytic converters are “bolt on” you can have the bolts welded shut. This is only a deterrent to the lowest grade of catalytic converter thief though - the one who works only with a wrench. Still, in some cases it might be enough of a deterrent to help prevent a theft.
Catalytic Converter Protective Sleeves
Protective coverings for your catalytic converter, such as the device known as the “Catclamp,” can deter thieves as well. The Catclamp and competitor Catcuff makes it much more difficult for the reciprocal saw wielding thief to steal your converter. They are great for owners of one or two cars. (Catclamp $150) (CatCuff $30)
A major problem with this type of crime is convicting a thief when they are not caught in the act. Police need proof that a catalytic converter they find in a guy's trunk or at the scrap metal dealer, is stolen. Etching your converter with your vehicles VIN number or your drivers license number will help the police to track your converter back to you if police recover it after it’s stolen. This will not protect you from theft, but it could help to catch the thieves preying on your neighborhood’s vehicles and at least you get some satisfaction knowing your foresight help convict the thieves.