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Criminals targeting catalytic converters for precious metals.

Criminals targeting catalytic converters for precious metals.

Catalytic converters are a component of an automotive vehicle's exhaust device that reduce the toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle's internal combustion engine into safe emissions. Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center, or “core”, and are regularly targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals, especially the precious metals palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years. The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what state it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute. Additionally, catalytic converters often lack unique serial numbers, VIN information, or other distinctive identification features, making them difficult to trace to their lawful owner. Thus, the theft of catalytic converters has become increasingly popular because of their value, relative ease to steal, and their lack of identifying markings.

Recently, federal, state, and local law enforcement partners from across the United States executed a nationwide, coordinated takedown of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars. Arrests, searches, and seizures took place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia in total, 21 individuals in five states have been arrested and/or charged for their roles in the conspiracy.

In addition to federal enforcement, state and local law enforcement agencies are taking steps to prevent and prosecute catalytic converter theft. For instance, in California, the California Highway Patrol has formed a special task force to investigate catalytic converter thefts. Additionally, auto repair shops have started to record the serial numbers of catalytic converters and offer discounts to customers who have the converters welded or bolted to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

If you have to leave your car outside, the National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends parking in well-lit areas, installing motion-sensor lighting, and installing an audible alarm. Additionally, they recommend marking the catalytic converter or other parts of the vehicle with a traceable identification number or by engraving a unique identifier on the converter.

Furthermore, citizens and law enforcement alike should be aware of the signs of catalytic converter theft, including loud exhaust noise, a decrease in vehicle performance and fuel efficiency, and a visible cut in the exhaust system. If a catalytic converter is stolen, the victim should report the theft to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the location of the theft.

In conclusion, catalytic converters are an attractive target for thieves due to their high value, relative ease to steal, and their lack of identifying markings. Both federal and state and local law enforcement are taking steps to prevent and prosecute the theft of catalytic converters. Citizens should be aware of the signs of catalytic converter theft and take preventative measures such as parking in well-lit areas, installing motion-sensor lighting, and marking the catalytic converter with a traceable identification number.

You may also want to consider installing a catalytic converter guard, which is designed to make it harder for a thief to remove the converter.

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