Why thieves are targeting catalytic converters - and how to stop them

November 20, 2022
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By Amanda Rogers

Mansfield Record

The cost of precious metals has put a bull’s eye on catalytic converters. Certain vehicles have two catalytic converters, which makes them an even bigger target for thieves.

Lt. Jim Harrell of the Mansfield Police Department has been assigned to the Tri County Task Force to stop vehicle and vehicle parts thefts. He explains why thieves are so focused on stealing the emission part – and what car owners can do to stop them.

“Catalytic converters are part of the exhaust,” Harrell explained. “It changes the gas to a friendlier, greener gas. Inside the catalytic converter are precious metals, like platinum, rhodium and palladium. It depends on the maker.

“Thieves cut the converters off and get a couple hundred bucks,” he said. “They compile hundreds and get the precious metals.”

Toyota Tundras, Toyota Tacomas and Mitsubishi Outlanders have double catalytic converters, Harrell said, one on each side and they can get $700 for each. The replacement cost can run $8,600-$10,500 and they come with sensors that tie into the engine. The replacement cost can depend on the damage the thieves do to the vehicle when they steal the catalytic converter.

Catalytic converter thefts are a United States problem that hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrell said, when the price of precious metals went into overdrive.

Even students, teachers and staff have had their catalytic converters stolen while parked in Mansfield ISD parking lots.

“Mansfield ISD police have responded to several of our campuses to handle reports from staff and parents that catalytic converters have been stolen from their cars,” according to the Mansfield ISD. “In light of the rash of thefts, officers will be keeping a particularly close eye on any suspicious activity in district parking lots in the coming days.

These aren’t isolated events. What’s happening in Mansfield follows a national trend. Annual thefts of the auto part jumped more than 1000 percent from 1,298 in 2018 to 14,433 in 2020, according to data compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Stealing a catalytic converter is quick and easy for crafty thieves. They crawl under cars and remove the converters, which can range from a foot long to almost 4 feet long, depending on the vehicle.

“They get a Sawzall and a steel blade on it,” Harrell said. “It takes less than a minute to cut out and they’re gone. They don’t hit cars as much as they hit trucks, vans and SUVs.”

And thieves will cut off the vehicle parts during daylight in busy parking lots, even at schools or Walmart.

“If people are in a parking lot and hear metal on metal, for sure they’re cutting out a catalytic converter,” Harrell said.

So what to do if you see or hear someone cutting off a catalytic converter?

“I would not confront them,” Harrell said. “Most of them are armed.

“Call the police, take photos of the car they get into including the license plate and the person if possible,” he said.

If you hear them tampering with a vehicle in your driveway or in front of your house, turn on the porch lights, call the police and take a photo, he said.

If you get in your car and it sounds like different, there’s a good chance your catalytic converter was stolen.

“It will start but it will sound like a race car,” Harrell said. “Catalytic converters are required in most of the Unites States.”

What most people don’t know is that there’s a way to prevent – or at least slow down – catalytic converter thieves.

“Go online and order a plate that bolts on the underside of the vehicle to prevent rocks and sticks from smashing the converter,” Harrell said. “They are very good for preventing converter thefts. The longer the thieves stay, the better chance they’re going to get caught.

“It’s $200 to put a plate on or $8,000 if it gets stolen,” he said.

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Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.

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