Thieves target auto parts for precious metals

BALTIMORE — Catalytic converter thefts are skyrocketing across the country. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, reports of theft have increased every month since the start of the pandemic and they believe there is a clear link between supply chain disruptions, limited resources and the skyrocketing value of precious metals.

Last month, a Towson woman started her car and heard something strange.

“A race car and check engine light came on,” said Robin, who asked that his full identity not be shared.

Robin later discovered that parts of her car had been stolen.

“Very strong and it was just very upsetting. My friend knew immediately that my catalytic converter was missing on my car,” Robin said.

Security video from the apartment complex shows the thieves in action.

“They lifted my vehicle, the guy went back under my car, took my catalytic converter and my O2 sensor, jumped in the car and left the scene,” Robin said.

It only took the three men three minutes.

Robin does not want to be identified as she fears the thieves will return and target her again.

“So it’s not the first time they’ve done this,” Robin said.

And during our interview, Robin learned that his complex had already been reached.

“My neighbor just told me the same thing happened to her last year, it’s getting out of hand, it has to stop,” Robin said.

These thefts occur throughout the region. In April, Bolton Hill thieves were filmed targeting a Prius.

“I never thought I would have to worry about an old Honda Accord, but apparently every vehicle has to be worried,” Robin said.

Baltimore County police have received reports of 167 catalytic converter thefts so far this year.

There are things you can do to protect yourself against this crime, including installing an anti-theft device, spray-painting converters with heat-resistant paint, etching your VIN number, or a Hard-to-remove sticker so the police can trace the part to your car. However, these measures do little to stop thieves looking for the precious metals inside.

“Right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain and mining of these precious metals is difficult, which has driven the price up exponentially over the past year. Since March 2020, rhodium is up over 300%, palladium by 31% and platinum by 63%,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Thieves can earn between $50 and $875 depending on the type of precious metal. Meanwhile, it will cost drivers over a thousand dollars to replace a converter. Even more frustrating is that if you don’t have comprehensive insurance, repairs probably won’t be covered.

“When they took my catalytic converter, another pipe was damaged, there’s a hole in it, so I’m looking at $1,000 to $1,500 to fix my car,” Robin said.

The best thing you can do is park in a garage or in a well-lit area. Cars that tend to be more sought after include low-emission hybrid vehicles that contain higher amounts of precious metals, trucks that have high clearance for easier access to converters, and larger cars with multiple catalytic converters.

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