Precious metals prices have been climbing consistently over the past few years—and they show no signs of stopping. While the situation is a gain for recyclers of palladium, platinum, rhodium, and other precious metals, recyclers have also found themselves in the middle of an ongoing issue related to the continuous price surge: catalytic converter theft. The crime appears in headlines almost daily. Often times the media, law enforcement, and community blame the recyclers for encouraging theft of catalytic converters by purchasing them. Thieves are stealing converters from all types of vehicles, and will make between $50 and $875 per converter depending on the type and the precious-metals content.
Attached to the underside of vehicles with internal combustion engines, catalytic converters rarely have serial numbers, so they can be very difficult for recyclers and law enforcement to track and identify. Many lower-emission and hybrid vehicles contain higher amounts of precious metals. Some larger vehicles have multiple catalytic converters, making them prey for theft. The repair cost to a vehicle’s owner can turn into thousands of dollars.
Catalytic converters are attractive to thieves because they can be removed in under two minutes and typically lack identifying markings. In addition, law enforcement agencies are stretched thin due to budget cuts, reduction in personnel due to retirements, and changing to meet evolving community policing expectations. Establishing rapport with your local law enforcement agencies and keeping clear records benefit everyone except criminals. This is a long-term issue, and will only be solved by a collaborative effort that includes all stakeholders.
ISRI is tracking legislation in the 50 states that includes specific provisions on the purchase, sale, possession, or theft of catalytic converters. Several of these bills have been enacted or are nearing passage in Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
ISRI believes the purchase and sale of catalytic converters is generally addressed by metal theft laws. But the laws are not always clear, and many buyers attempt to avoid the law by claiming they are not buying metal, but are buying “cores.” Protect yourself by becoming familiar with laws governing catalytic converters in the states where you operate. At the very least, when someone offers a catalytic converter for sale, conduct a reasonably diligent inquiry, based upon the seller, type, and quantity of metal offered for sale and other circumstances surrounding the transaction, to determine whether the person selling or delivering the metal has a legal right to do so.
- Protect yourself by becoming familiar with laws governing catalytic converters in the states where you operate. At the very least, when someone offers a catalytic converter for sale, conduct a reasonably diligent inquiry, based upon the seller, type, and quantity of metal offered for sale, and other circumstances surrounding the transaction, to determine whether the person selling or delivering the metal has a legal right to do so.
- Sign up for ScrapTheftAlert.com and share the tool with local law enforcement and make sure they know how to use it.
- Encourage people in the community and local garages to mark their catalytic converter.
- Volunteer on citizen advisory boards with police departments.
- Offer training to local law enforcement (with ISRI’s help).
- Contact Brady Mills, ISRI’s director of law enforcement outreach, at (202) 662‑8526.