Thieves convert to this coveted auto part
Move over copper piping, catalytic converters are now driving illegal domestic demand for precious metals.
Copper capers remain a persistent problem, in Massachusetts and across the country.
The US Department of Energy estimates that utility companies lose $1 billion worth of copper wire each year to scrap theft.
And that doesn’t include loss to private residences, which can contain up to 400 pounds of copper, found in ground wires from electrical systems, plumbing, telephone wire, air conditioners and heaters.
But the expensive catalytic converter parts proved too strong a decoy for the thieves to make a quick score.
We have local proof of this.
Chelmsford Police have been busy investigating reports of multiple thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles over the past few weeks.
Authorities said in a recent press release that from February 18 to Wednesday last week, they received complaints about stolen catalytic converters from vehicles on Stedman Street, Alpha Road, Middlesex Street, Industrial Avenue, Groton Road and Billerica Road.
Police said robberies were also reported at Chelmsford Senior Center, where city-owned transport vans were targeted.
Catalytic converters help reduce air pollutants that can negatively impact human health and the environment. It improves your car‘s efficiency and in turn converts 90% of harmful vehicle emissions into more benign gases.
But their environmental benefits are not the reason they are in high demand.
In January, The Associated Press reported that the theft of catalytic converters had jumped nationwide over the past two years as prices for the precious metals they contain soared.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau said in a press release last year that the number of catalytic converter thefts reported in insurance company claims had risen from 3,389 in 2019 to 14,433 in 2020, a huge increase. of 977%.
The AP said thieves can expect to get between $50 and $300 selling converters to scrap yards, which then resell them to recycling facilities that extract the precious metals used to produce them, including the platinum, palladium and rhodium, worth $1,000, $2,000, and $17,000. per ounce respectively.
Meanwhile, for victims, the costs of replacing a stolen catalytic converter can easily exceed $1,000 and render their vehicle inoperable for days or weeks while waiting for a replacement part.
“Catalytic converters are expensive to replace, and unfortunately that means these thefts can have a significant financial impact on families, and especially those on a fixed income,” said Chelmsford Police Chief James Spinney, in the press release. “I want to assure residents that the Chelmsford Police Service is thoroughly investigating these thefts and working with law enforcement partners to monitor and respond to crime trends like this.”
Chelmsford isn’t the only town with stolen catalytic converters.
In late March, Tewksbury police announced the arrest of a New Hampshire man who allegedly stole a catalytic converter from a recreational vehicle parked in a driveway in the 300 block of North Street.
NICB President and CEO David Glawe said the surge in thefts coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted supply chains for auto parts and a wide variety of other products.
According to Glawe, removing catalytic converters only takes a few minutes using basic battery-powered tools that can be picked up at hardware stores. Chelmsford Police have provided the following advice to help prevent such thefts including:
– Park in well-lit areas.
– Park vehicles near building entrances or the nearest road in public parking lots where many people can see it.
– If you have a personal or collective garage, park your vehicle inside with the door closed.
– Add video surveillance to the area where you regularly park your vehicle.
Just being aware of this theft potential should act as a deterrent, putting this possibility on our personal radar.