Recently, our officers have investigated two thefts of catalytic converters from cars parked at residences in Atherton. Thefts of catalytic converters have been on the rise in our area and across the country.
Stricter car emissions rules around the world, particularly in China, have sent demand for the precious metals in catalytic converters surging. This has pushed up the asking price for some of the precious metals used in the device, like palladium and rhodium, to record highs.
From about $500 an ounce five years ago, the price of palladium quintupled to hit a record of $2,875 an ounce last year, and is now hovering between $2,000 and $2,500 an ounce, above the price of gold. Rhodium prices have skyrocketed more than 3,000 percent from about $640 an ounce five years ago to a record $21,900 an ounce this year, roughly 12 times the price of gold.
The metals prices, in turn, are fueling a black market in stolen catalytic converters, which can be sawed off from the belly of a car in minutes, and fetch several hundred dollars at a scrapyard, which then sells it to recyclers who extract the metals. These global trends in emissions regulations, metals markets and larceny appear to have converged to correlate to a large increase in catalytic converter thefts.
Some states have started to require scrapyards and other recyclers to check photo IDs before buying used catalytic converters. California even requires businesses to take a photograph or video clip of the seller, and retain those records for two years. But different rules between states makes tracking and enforcement almost impossible, law enforcement officials say.
To help prevent catalytic converter thefts, residents should keep their cars in a secure garage, behind a gate if possible, or ensure to park in a well-lit area. After market catalytic converter metal anti- theft guards are also available for after-market installation and can be found on line offered by several vendors.
When encountering suspicious activity, residents are always encouraged to call 911 so our officers can respond to investigate. Remember, “If You See Something Say Something” and help keep Atherton safe and secure.
Steven D. McCulley
Chief of Police