Plunderers Pilfer Particularly Pricey Part

When a half dozen readers reached out to us about being unceremoniously divested of their vehicle’s catalytic converter, and we found yet another instance where a NorthPark Center shopper was parted with the part in police reports, we had to ask: Why catalytic converters?

If your knowledge of cars extends only to which side the gas tank is on, a quick explanation of what a catalytic converter does: “Your car’s catalytic converter is an essential component for reducing the toxic emissions that cause air pollution and climate change,” the National Automobile Dealers Association explains.

It’s what is inside – the stuff that helps reduce the pollutants – that makes a catalytic converter so valuable, explained North Dallas mechanic Bruce Chang, aka “Bruce the Mechanic.”

“Catalytic converters contain precious metals – platinum is probably the most common,” he said. “Regularly, I have people come to my auto repair business to buy old catalytic converters they can sell. I can get anywhere from $20 to $200 for an old catalytic converter, then that guy will sell it to a junkyard for probably 50% more.”

Dallas police spokesperson Warren Mitchell said that since April 29, there have been 39 catalytic converter thefts in the North Central patrol division.

“These offenses have occurred throughout the division and are not concentrated in just one area,” he said, adding that Hondas seem to be the biggest targets, with 23 cases involving the make, and 11 of those being Honda Accords. Another five Mercedes box trucks were hit at the same time and location, belonging to Sunnyland Pool Company.

But where the catalytic converter is located in the car – underneath it – makes stealing one a crime of opportunity that also requires nobody noticing two legs and two feet sticking out from beneath a car.

That being said, Chang said it’s not difficult to remove one (note: don’t do this – People Newspapers is not doing a how-to guide on catalytic converter thievery).

“It’s relatively easy. You can do it a couple different ways,” Chang said. “If it were me (note: and to be clear, it’s not him), I’d use a cordless Sawzall (reciprocating saw) and it would cut through exhaust pipes (in) under 30 seconds.”

“The easiest targets will be trucks as you don’t need to jack them up, you just crawl underneath, saw off the two sides and voila, you’re done,” he continued. “Most trucks would have two, so you’ll get two catalytic converters (in) under five minutes.”

Chang said he’s not unfamiliar with the issue, either.

“My sister and brother-in-law have a childcare business and the school buses they use to pick up kids from school got the catalytic converters stolen,” he said. “Another customer of mine said they had a bunch of catalytic converters stolen from their company parking lot during the day.”

How do you prevent it? 

“Etching the catalytic converter with the vehicle identification number (VIN) is an effective deterrent and there are after-market security devices available as well,” the National Insurance Crime Bureau recommended.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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