Metal theft has emerged as a significant criminal phenomenon across EU Member States in recent years. Thieves are now also targeting catalytic converters from parked cars because they contain valuable metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Taller cars with more ground clearance, such as sports utility vehicles (SUVs) or vans, are specifically targeted as it is easier to remove their catalytic converters, which are installed to reduce the poisonous gases from a vehicle's exhaust system.
The value of catalytic converters depends on the type of vehicle. The minimum price for the precious metal contained in one converter is EUR 50 on the second-hand market. The value and accessibility of catalytic converters (CATs) makes them attractive targets for theft. They are stolen from vehicles parked on the street as well as from recycling companies. Recently, a recycling company in Belgium lost 300 second-hand CATs, worth EUR 15 000, to theft. Costs for a vehicle owner to replace a stolen catalytic converter can be more than EUR 1500.
Many offenders involved in the theft of CATs belong to mobile organised crime groups, operating across borders and covering long distances. These criminals often target entire fleets in a single night. Many of these groups have previously been involved in other types of property crime such as burglaries and thefts of lorries, vehicle batteries, boat engines and diesel.
The thieves sell the catalytic converters to metal dealers who ask no questions and then extract the precious metals from the CAT's ceramic core. Some criminals are able to remove the cores themselves and sell them directly to refining companies, making it impossible to trace the theft.
To reduce the risk of theft, when possible:
- Park your car in a garage
- Park where access is controlled and CCTV is active
- Park in an area that allows visibility to passersby
- Park in well-lit areas
- If you operate a fleet of cars, park smaller and lower cars around the high risk cars to obstruct access
- Mark the metal shell of the catalytic converter with a unique mark to make it easier to trace it back to your car.