The pandemic and ensuing supply chain problems highlighted several some of humanity’s worst traits, not the least of which was greed. Shady sellers started marking up essential goods, and others just decided to steal what they needed to get by. When the prices of the precious metals within vehicle catalytic converters went sky-high, converter thefts exploded in number, reaching critical levels in metro areas nationwide. Things have reached the point where people are dying, though, it’s currently limited to the people doing the stealing.
First a thief in California died last month when the owner of a vehicle who was napping behind the wheel during the theft woke up and unknowingly ran over him. Now WSAV-TV in Savannah, Georgia, reports that police in Chatham County, Georgia, responded to the call last week when a car lot employee found a deceased man under one of their cars. Officials said the scene indicates he was trying to remove the catalytic converter before the vehicle fell on him.
Thieves tend to choose SUVs and pickup trucks to avoid this problem. The taller vehicles offer more room to slide or crawl underneath and operate the saw needed to remove the catalytic converter. We don’t know what kind of vehicle fell on the unlucky thief, but it’s likely a sedan or minivan or a favorite of the thieves, a Toyota Prius. The report doesn't say, but the vehicle must have been jacked up to have fallen.
Catalytic converters are popular targets for thieves looking for a quick payday because the metals used to build them — palladium, platinum, and rhodium, can yield a hefty sum at a less-than-above-board salvage yard or recycling business. Several remedies have been proposed, including engraving the vehicle’s VIN on the converter or better bolting it to the vehicle, but the trend continues.
Chatham County officials reported 39 catalytic converter thefts in 2022. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported more than 52,000 across the land in 2021, a steep increase from the 1,300 or so in 2018. If you’re worried about theft, parking your car in a well-lit area or a garage is best. You can also paint the catalytic converter or install a car alarm. It’s never a foolproof plan, but removing opportunities is your best shot.