Preventing the theft of catalytic converters

With recent reports of gangs stripping cars of their catalytic converters in broad daylight (*1) it appears that factors are again aligning to cause a new wave in thefts. Catalytic converter thefts last made the headlines in 2013 (*2) but with a rising number of vehicle parts theft in the UK, catalytic converters are again being targeted.

Increasing parts thefts

The rising number of vehicle parts thefts occurring in the UK seems to be driven by a variety of factors.

With economic pressures not improving, consumers are looking for the most cost effective means of maintaining their car. This can often lead to increased use of second-hand parts. The rise of the sharing economy has provided several new markets for obtaining these parts, but they can obscure the supply chain, allowing for stolen parts to be introduced to legitimate markets. As stolen goods become easier to convert into cash, the incentive to steal parts increases.

A rising popularity of SUV vehicles could be exacerbating this problem as the higher-ride height preferred by many consumers does make it easier to access parts underneath the vehicle. Commercial vehicles and 4x4s also exhibit the same vulnerability to parts theft. The ride height allows thefts to be enacted more easily and, crucially, more rapidly. This makes anywhere that vehicles are stored particularly vulnerable as several catalytic converters could be stolen in a short amount of time.

Why does the catalytic converter stand out?

The precious metals contained with the catalytic converter are not valued as highly as they were during the previous spates of thefts, even so, they are still double the value of gold and can be recycled into a number of other things.

The change in the MOT rules in May 2018 and the increased focus on car emissions(*2) puts more pressure on vehicles to have a fully functioning catalytic converter. This increased demand for the part is likely to result in a higher proportion of thefts as values increase.

Crime prevention

With vehicle technology rapidly improving, this has an impact on security. Vehicles can now alert owners to entry attempts or to movement from inside the vehicle. However, with catalytic converters being external to the vehicle, theft can take place without an alert. This makes traditional physical security essential to deter and prevent thefts.

Here are several measures available to help prevent theft of parts from occurring:

  • Ensure vehicle storage areas are well lit, with good coverage from monitored CCTV systems.
  • Ensure that perimeter fencing/walls are sufficient to stop the movement of people and vehicles onto the premises outside of working hours.
  • Defensive parking – by parking the most vulnerable vehicles in close proximity to less vulnerable vehicles, the access can be made more difficult, potentially deterring a thief.
  • Where possible, vehicles with exposed catalytic converters should be stored inside locked buildings.
  • Enclosure devices can prevent thefts on vehicles where a catalytic converter cannot be easily removed or are regularly stored away from the business.
  • To assist with the identification and recovery of stolen parts, permanent marking can be applied which should also lower the attractiveness of the parts.