Removing a catalytic converter can take less than a minute
June 2, 2022 9:49 PM   Subscribe

The suspects had stashed the van inside a residential garage on Southside drive. At 4:00 in the morning, officers from the Jeffersontown Police Department burst onto the property, raided the garage, and opened the van’s back doors. There, they found their mark: almost 200 catalytic converters, a jagged tangle of rusty parts adorned with hacksaw marks where each converter had been cut from its former vehicle. Popular Mechanics on the catalytic converter crime-wave.
posted by ShooBoo (74 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
North Carolina has a law saying they can’t be resold at all unless they’re attached to a car. Seems pretty sensible to me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:51 PM on June 2 [12 favorites]


If I didn't have other more pressing issues, I would shop for some kind of sleeve that makes them harder to remove. This town is always catching cat thieves. Even thinking about it makes me nervous. Like it will attract them.
posted by Oyéah at 9:56 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


The problem (as outlined in the article) is not that they are being resold as catalytic converters, they are having the rare metals inside them salvaged and sold as raw material. A law against selling them without a car attached is moot, so long as the metal inside is valuable.
posted by Aleyn at 10:12 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


I do know that. But people who steal them are generally not cracking them open themselves, are they? They’re selling them whole. Requiring the car makes it more of a pain in the ass to do that and disincentivizes stealing them, at least to some degree.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:16 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


They’re not being sold to people who have high regard for laws, must-be-attached-to-car -type laws, or otherwise. They take the CC from the thief — here’s some cash thanksverymuch , it has been nice not knowing you — then break it down and sell the component material at a profit.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:35 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I recently had a car repaired. It was at a shop somewhat distant to my house, so I asked about a key-drop figuring I'd just bring it by the previous eve. They said "uh, don't do that, we've had more than 20 customer cars left on the street that had their cats stolen. Bring it by during office hours and we'll park it in our barb-wired lot overnight."

So I did that, the car was there for a few days and I got a call to come pick it up, which I did the next day. When examining the bill the final line item was "new catalytic converter to replace stolen one N/C". Apparently thieves sliced open their fence the night before and hit more than a dozen customer cars. (There are certain models thieves like, where the cat is essentially right out in the open and can be got to quickly, my elderly Land Rover is one of those.)

Apparently Washington State is working on passing a law which prevents payment of cash for cats, check only, ID will be required. Scrap metal dealers being some of the lowest of the low, I don't know how effective this will be in practice...
posted by maxwelton at 10:45 PM on June 2 [9 favorites]


I forgot what this page was about and came back and was temporarily confused about cats (miaow) being stolen from cars...
posted by freethefeet at 10:58 PM on June 2 [19 favorites]


I can only say that I grew up around several very sketch junkyard operations and this is almost certainly both dumber and more interesting than how the press is dealing with it.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:59 PM on June 2 [11 favorites]


FYI I am here for any and all sketch junkyard operations tales, dumb/interesting combo esp.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:03 PM on June 2 [14 favorites]


They'll just factor in the cost of gas to drive a van filled with stolen cats to the next state over.
posted by meowzilla at 11:13 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I can only say that I grew up around several very sketch junkyard operations and this is almost certainly both dumber and more interesting than how the press is dealing with it.

I don’t know what that means but I’m curious what that means.
posted by atoxyl at 11:22 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


This has been a problem for long enough that there should be anti theft shields or something to make it much more difficult to snarf.
posted by rhizome at 11:33 PM on June 2


I have no idea how these people got their cats edged out by some scammers or why.
posted by Zedcaster at 11:45 PM on June 2 [44 favorites]


There are anti theft shields, as mentioned in the article, they get cut through just like any other plastic or metal, it just takes longer... it's $5000 to replace the cat on a Prius, which could take a few months, during which time you have no car - it's perfectly driveable, it's just the government preventing you from driving it. Utterly catastrophic for people who rely on their car to get to work, for someone to steal your $5000 cat just to sell it for $100,

A homeless man living in his truck for the last two years woke up to find someone stealing his cat, so he shot him, tied him to his truck and dragged him into a field and dumped the body there. The crazy thing is, people are so fed up with cat thieves that it's plausible he would be acquitted in a jury trial - imagine losing everything except your truck, and you wake up to find someone destroying the last remaining possession you have for a $100.
posted by xdvesper at 11:55 PM on June 2 [15 favorites]


When my buddy’s cat was stolen off his elderly Toyota Prius here in Sweden last year, the insurance company required some type of theft device be added when the cat was replaced. It was stolen while the car was parked at his condominium’s outdoor parking area. The neighbor’s car parked next to his car had the catalytic converter stolen three times. Then the neighbor gave up, sold his Prius, and bought something else.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:58 PM on June 2


There was a viral clip being sent around when a thief's car jack shifted and they were crushed (and killed) while trying to steal a catalytic convertor. People were cheering. Also, someone was killed when they confronted a thief stealing the cat convertor from their car in the driveway.
posted by meowzilla at 12:12 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


This thread is very confusing for a UK person who thinks of cats differently.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:20 AM on June 3


They take the CC from the thief — here’s some cash thanksverymuch

I would assume this will escalate (if it hasn't already) to trading the CC for drugs.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:21 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Park over a muddy puddle or anything else disagreeable you might find in the hopes of scaring off fastidious thieves.
posted by fairmettle at 12:23 AM on June 3


make them modular, so you can easily pop them out and toss them in the trunk like we used to do with car radios
posted by chavenet at 12:41 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


This thread is very confusing for a UK person who thinks of cats differently.
If you've ever tried converting a cat, you will appreciate that any device which can do this for you will surely be valuable.

(For me, it is a reminder of the computer memory chip theft which was a huge things in (at least) the UK back in the mid 1990s. At that time the chips were worth more than their weight in gold, I seem to recall.)

Catalytic converter theft is also a thing here: 20,000 thefts in 2020 for example.
posted by rongorongo at 12:47 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


imagine losing everything except your truck, and you wake up to find someone destroying the last remaining possession you have for a $100.

I remember reading a book on the practicalities of cycling; the chapter on securing your bike began with a statement claiming that in the Romani language (IIRC), the most insulting thing one could call someone was “horse thief”, as those who destroy someone's livelihood for gain are beneath contempt.
posted by acb at 1:14 AM on June 3 [10 favorites]


I live somewhere where EVs were 86.1% of the new car market last I checked, so I expect this do die out eventually. Probably to be replaced by a thriving market for stolen battery packs.
posted by Harald74 at 2:17 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


(For me, it is a reminder of the computer memory chip theft which was a huge things in (at least) the UK back in the mid 1990s. At that time the chips were worth more than their weight in gold, I seem to recall.)

Diamonds, in my memory.

My university was hit around that time. They broke open the cases, pulled out the SIMMS and left the rest of the Macs behind.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 2:45 AM on June 3


I was totally unaware of this situation. Thanks for posting.

It's an inorganic equivalent to the ivory trade. I'd imagine motivations toward, and efforts to prevent, are similarly difficult to negate and effect.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:47 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Probably to be replaced by a thriving market for stolen battery packs.

Hybrid batteries maybe (Prius battery packs weigh around 100 pounds total apparently, and are modular).

But EV batteries are about half a ton.
posted by Foosnark at 4:20 AM on June 3


And flammable if breached
posted by Slackermagee at 4:36 AM on June 3


Not really anything like the ivory trade. Cars aren't going extinct (even if they should), and unlike an elephant, they can be repaired.

It is an interesting thing that EVs will probably make this particular societal challenge moot in the fairly near future.
posted by rockindata at 4:59 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I'm always caught by surprise when I read articles involving interviews with police, in media that isn't explicitly leftist. Like, they're just repeating what these guys say, without the slightest hint of skepticism or critical analysis.

The profits [from autocat thefts] for thieves can fund other crimes

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it organized crime so much as criminal organizations, groups that come together [to steal cats] for a little while”

Special agent Robinson says: “If all you do is sit around thinking about how to make money and run scams, you get good at it.”

Gomez didn’t report the thefts to police, but there was little the cops could do.

The first three quotes are in the running for "dumbest thing I've read this week," and the fourth creates more questions than answers. Why is there little they can do? Oh, wait, the second half of the article is mostly about things they could do if they wanted to, but it takes actual work to track down the thieves, so they'll only do that if the victims are wealthy white people.
posted by Mayor West at 5:26 AM on June 3 [22 favorites]


make them modular, so you can easily pop them out and toss them in the trunk like we used to do with car radios
A catalytic converter operates at around 1400˚F (750˚C). I would recommend waiting at least an hour between turning off your engine and tossing it into your trunk.
posted by Hatashran at 6:05 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


it's $5000 to replace the cat on a Prius

Which Prius? I had one stolen a couple years ago off my 2007 Prius, on the street under a streetlamp in Evanston, IL. It was about $800 to replace. Plus $300 for the oxygen sensor (I think), which the guys who replaced the catalytic converter may or may not have damaged. (Both luckily covered by insurance.)

Anyway, mine was the third one called in for Evanston that night, which I did to get a report number for insurance purposes. The person I spoke to said they had a rash of the same several years earlier.
posted by Glinn at 6:36 AM on June 3


I wonder if in the future building a hard shell around the exhaust system will be an advertised feature on cars.

I've never asked where my palladium comes from. (But, as someone who buys something like .2 kg/yr, it really doesn't matter.)
posted by eotvos at 6:59 AM on June 3


It was about $800 to replace.

Depends on the model year, apparently, although $800 seems awfully low. It cost $3500 to replace the cat on my 2008 Prius last month. I opted to have an antitheft plate put on, since it was stolen right out from my driveway. I figured any halfway decent thief would check back in a month to grab the new one. I would anyhow.
posted by lemonade at 7:00 AM on June 3


Stealing car radios was a thing for the longest time, but these days almost never happens. According to this NPR piece, the move to more sophisticated and better factory radios was a major part of that decline, along with the decline in price for new ones -- it just stopped being worth it to steal them.

I hope something similar can happen with catalytic converters, with some changes on the car manufacturing side that either make them much harder to steal or harder to sell. Otherwise, it's hard to see how to meaningfully impact the resale part of the equation.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:00 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]






"Priced by the ounce, platinum went from an average of about $530 per ounce in 2001 to about $1,100 in 2021 after it reached a high of $1,700 in 2011. Palladium went from an average price of $600 per ounce in 2001 to a high of nearly $2,400 in 2021.
But it’s rhodium that’s been the most volatile. After averaging roughly $1,600 per ounce in 2001, it jumped to an average of about $18,000 in 2021, with a high that year of nearly $26,000. "
posted by lemonade at 7:13 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


AstroForge aims to succeed where other asteroid mining companies have failed
the company believes the best option is simply to go and see. "Until we go we won't know," Gialich said. "There isn't a way of knowing right now, from Earth, exactly how much of each platinum group metal is on an asteroid."
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:17 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


Oops hit post too soon. Source article For above quote.

Depends on the model year, apparently, although $800 seems awfully low.

Scratch that, $800 probably wasn't low a few years ago. Five years ago paladium was $800 per ounce, today over $2000.
posted by lemonade at 7:18 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I wonder if in the future building a hard shell around the exhaust system will be an advertised feature on cars.

I was just looking up how at risk my Honda Fit is as I street park and I thus far have been lucky. I could not find a diagram to show where it is, but apparently the position in the newer fits makes it hard to access as it’s almost in the engine compartment. With that in mind; my guess is that car companies will just redesign the cat to be more inaccessible. Which means higher repair cost, but probably better than some jackass stealing it.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:22 AM on June 3


I have to have some work done on my Prius (mice keep wrecking the ventilation) and will paint the cat.conv. blaze orange, etch the VIN, and get a shield. It would make sense for my insurer to have workshops and split the expense with car owners. I live well off the beaten path, but a car was swiped on my street recently. I guess I'll start leaving the motion-sensor lights on, which I hate. I moved here, in part, because one could still see the stars, but my sleepy lakeside neighborhood is being cutified, which includes fertilized and weed-killered lawns and LED klieg lights. /shakes geezer fist
posted by theora55 at 7:24 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]




(For me, it is a reminder of the computer memory chip theft which was a huge things in (at least) the UK back in the mid 1990s. At that time the chips were worth more than their weight in gold, I seem to recall.)

At that time, the guys touring the "Computer Show" circuit selling RAM chips were armed.
posted by mikelieman at 7:26 AM on June 3


At that time the chips were worth more than their weight in gold

This is still very much the case for a modern processor or GPU.

I don’t know what that means but I’m curious what that means.

Not meaning to be cryptic, just too lazy to go into the details. But your local chop shop is rigged up in alternative supply chains for reuse/recycling/“junking” that open up lots of fun semi-legal or actively criminal ways to turn an extra buck. Many of them aren’t particularly complex when it comes to the role of the shop itself. A lot of them (like the topic at hand) are really interesting as part of the larger picture of aftermarket car parts and modifications. You could for instance write a similar article on the seemingly unending spate of wheel thefts in DC, but without the precious metals angle.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:34 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


it's $5000 to replace the cat on a Prius, which could take a few months, during which time you have no car - it's perfectly driveable, it's just the government preventing you from driving it.

Gotta find a sketchier mechanic, then.

It's pretty trivial to weld in a piece of straight pipe where the catalytic converter used to be, and tie off the O2 sensor with a resistor of the appropriate value. (The sensors are analog on all but the very newest cars, so you just need to know what voltage it's nominally supposed to produce.)

The fun part is that, at least in my area, a car like this will 100% pass emissions, since the "inspection" depends on the car's built-in OBDII bus and ECU to report on the system. There's no sanity check that the car isn't just lying.

In terms of deterring theft though, I was thinking that a decent system might be to tie a sensitive motion sensor into the auto-start, so that if the car gets jostled it starts up and idles for 10 minutes (getting the converter very hot, very quickly). It'd be dangerous if you park your car in a garage, but few people in my area do that. We'd probably discover who was stealing converters based on the number of bodies with CO poisoning pulled out from under cars.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:38 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I had an '05 Prius I got used at a deep discount and after awhile the exhaust got rusted through, so I took it to the shop, expecting to pay maybe a hundred bucks or so to have a new pipe welded on, like with my old Civic. The guy quotes me $3500 and explains that on the early Priuses, the exhaust pipe, the catalytic converter, the muffler, all of that is one integrated part that was never released to aftermarket, so the only way to replace any of it is with a full part, sold only by Toyota, and the cost of the part plus the 15 minutes to remove the bolts, swap the parts, and replace the bolts would be about $3500. But if I could find an intact exhaust from a wrecked '05 Prius, he'd be happy to swap it in for $25.

Long story short, I resentfully drove the loudest Prius for a few years until the engine died.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:39 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]



The fun part is that, at least in my area, a car like this will 100% pass emissions, since the "inspection" depends on the car's built-in OBDII bus and ECU to report on the system. There's no sanity check that the car isn't just lying.



that's fucking bonkers.shops should test tailpipe emissions.

then again, this is the country where "rolling coal" assholes trucks aren't impounded at gunpoint. where are the EPA cops when you need them?
posted by lalochezia at 7:46 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Hybrid batteries maybe (Prius battery packs weigh around 100 pounds total apparently, and are modular).

Except the batteries are usually inside the car, under the seat. In my Prius C you have to take apart the entire back seat out to get at them. The thieves are looking for a quick grab and go, not something thing that may take a while, so it’s often an easy to reach cat or tires.

I wonder if in the future building a hard shell around the exhaust system will be an advertised feature on cars.

It’s more just not putting them somewhere easy to reach. The reason mainline Pruises are targeted is the cat is right on the side so a thief can just reach in and grab it and go. Putting it centerline and up means they need a Jack and they won’t bother to try as they need to get in and out fast. Same reason heavy truck cats are targeted as there is usually enough clearance to get under the truck grab it and go (and being larger they can fetch more from recycling as well).
posted by jmauro at 7:53 AM on June 3


Many (red to purple-ish) states only even require emissions inspections in counties where it's required as part of the Federal Clean Air Act. In theory it's probably some level of illegal to run a car without a converter that was designed to have one, but it's not like that's stopping anybody, since there's no enforcement mechanism. And laws without enforcement mechanisms are just nice ideas.

E.g. in Virginia, auto emissions are between you and god, if you're not garaging the vehicle in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Stafford counties (or one of the adjacent cities to those counties).
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:54 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Stealing car radios was a thing for the longest time, but these days almost never happens. According to this NPR piece, the move to more sophisticated and better factory radios was a major part of that decline, along with the decline in price for new ones -- it just stopped being worth it to steal them.

Also radios became a major pain to remove. Last one I swapped out required specialized tools and I still had to disassemble most of the dash to get it out. Older ones could just be pulled out quickly.
posted by jmauro at 7:56 AM on June 3


the second half of the article is mostly about things they could do if they wanted to, but it takes actual work to track down the thieves, so they'll only do that if the victims are wealthy white people.


Hey, man, are you gonna find these guys? Or, you know, I mean... You got any promising leads or...

Leads? Yeah. Sure. I'll just check with the boys down at the crime lab. They got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts! [Laughs]
posted by banshee at 8:02 AM on June 3 [9 favorites]


Also radios became a major pain to remove. Last one I swapped out required specialized tools and I still had to disassemble most of the dash to get it out. Older ones could just be pulled out quickly.

A lot of factory radios are still east to remove. A few clips, a few screws, UNC lip the connection and there ya go. Thing is, they’re also very specific fits now. What good is that radio from a 2017 Rav4 going to be to your average pawn shop or reseller?
posted by azpenguin at 8:17 AM on June 3


What is missing from this discussion is how you have to battle with the insurance company to get any speedy resolution to the issue. They are clearly taking a severe hit due to the increase in the crime. We just had ours stolen from a 'secure' parking lot at the Sheraton Suites in Philly. Despite having video surveillance and knowing that there have been multiple cases in their lot, the owners are brushing their hands of it. 'Not our problem. See the disclaimer.' etc. We filed a police report - make sure you do too if it happens to you. Our Rav4 catalytic converter costs in the region of $1,300 +/- as it is a single unit including the muffler. We cannot just get a CC and fit it in as there was damage to the muffler part as well. Insurance company has offered.... $842 minus the $500 deductible. They are completely out of touch with reality.... no names here but they handle farms in the state of PA....
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:19 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


The National Insurance Crime Bureau has tracked autocat thefts since 2008, when they issued their first nationwide report on the crime. Thefts leapt from 3,246 in 2008 to 14,400 in 2020, an increase greater than 300 percent.
I've been hearing alarmed recounting of alarmed media coverage about catalytic converter theft from right-wing relatives. It seems like a perfect tool for getting certain types of people to think of the Biden administration as some kind of Dark Age: In addition to "Gas prices!" and "No one wants to work anymore!", we can now add "Crime is out of control!"

I'm puzzled by the underwhelming numbers in these stories. Even if we generously supposed that 14,400 figure is outdated and/or the result of under-reporting, even if we generously suppose the real figure is 10x higher, consider the larger context: The US overall has roughly 275,000,000 motor vehicle registrations. Every year about 725,000 of them are stolen outright.

Alarm over 14,000 cat thefts doesn't just sound silly, it sounds like a mistake, like someone dropped a couple of decimal places somewhere.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:19 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]


It's a perfect crisis for Murdoch Media. Catalytic converters aren't necessary to make the car move, they're just required by law because of "climate change." They're expensive, they're easy to steal, insurance companies are being dicks about them, theft is on the rise, by armed gangs no doubt, cops can't solve this crime, and what are you going to do? Why, change the law of course so CCs aren't required any more! Gets ride of the crime and the expensive replacement problem! And you could sell your old unnecessary CC to a sketchy mechanic for a couple hundred bucks! The right's gotta love it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:43 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Endemic problem in my area; thankfully, I have a garage. Of course, most people around me do also, but theirs are all so full of stuff they're forced to park outside. The thieves appear in the wee hours, and then on security-cam footage the following day, on NextDoor; but it wasn't until this thread that I ever heard catalytic converters called "cats."
posted by Rash at 8:43 AM on June 3


"Cat" is absolute a term used both in North America and in the U.K., at least it is in automotive circles and by automotive enthusiasts. As an example, google the phrase "cat-back exhaust" (that should prevent you from being flooded with feline-related links.
posted by sardonyx at 9:10 AM on June 3




"Operation Cat Scratch Thiever," nice.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:36 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]




I know Prius owners who've experienced this. Maine is generally low crime, but we have addiction here, too.
posted by theora55 at 9:59 AM on June 3


Two years ago, after twice losing cats to theft, one of my more enterprising neighbors cut two tire-width and car-length slots in his driveway concrete. He then carefully dug two trenches that gradually slope from surface level to about 5 inches deep. He pulls his car into the trenches which, when fully parked, leaves about 1/2" of space between the bottom of the car and the surface. Last year, he re-did them, adding steel mesh and concrete to make them sturdy.

As far as I can tell, there is simply no way someone could get a jack under any side or corner of that car (a Toyota Avalon).
posted by bz at 10:44 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Anyone with a high lift can just stick it in a wheel well and jack away. Not common but not really rare either.
posted by Mitheral at 11:12 AM on June 3


"Anyone with a high lift can just stick it in a wheel well and jack away."

They'd have to jack it up an insane amount to be able to get under it.
posted by bz at 11:42 AM on June 3


The cat from our Prius was stolen in January 2021. We were without the car for about a month and it cost about $4000 (our deductible was $1000). The shop ordered two Toyota cats when they ordered ours, as thefts were then on the rise and getting a replacement cat was taking a long time .

We had a shield installed under the car, which insurance refused to pay for. It only cost about $250, which it seems would help prevent a future loss to the insurance company, but who knows with insurance?
posted by lhauser at 12:54 PM on June 3


They'd have to jack it up an insane amount

That's why they are four feet long.
posted by Mitheral at 12:57 PM on June 3


Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting a "just for PopMech members" message.
posted by beagle at 1:27 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


They'd have to jack it up an insane amount to be able to get under it.

Or just enough to get a 2nd jack under the body. As in poker so in life: beware the man with a pair of jacks.
posted by axiom at 1:32 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


My catalytic converter had to be replaced to pass Cal. smog testing. I think California subsidizes if you have to buy new, to pass a failed smog test. It cost $350, installed. I had to go back. They barely hooked up the muffler, and their indifference, (or prep for cat thieves,) cost them a relatively long repair. I am thinking a simple barbed wire cat wrap, might be a deterrent, but types get all angry if you screw up their plan to profit at your expense.
posted by Oyéah at 7:17 PM on June 3


Or just enough to get a 2nd jack under the body

Too humbug to bother when there are other cars around to choose from. Clever solution. Unfortunately, we all sometimes have to park our cars in places other than our custom thief-deterrent driveways.
posted by ctmf at 7:17 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


(needs a way to lock the car down to the ground in the troughs, so the car can't be jacked.)
posted by ctmf at 7:20 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


(needs a way to lock the car down to the ground in the troughs, so the car can't be jacked.)

I think some kind of fitted structure of arches could bind the car from above. Parking your car would be like sliding a foot into a birkenstock.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:29 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Heh. I had a total of four stolen off my little 2001 Prius. After the second one was stolen, I had a steel cage installed around it, marketed as a theft deterrent, but the thieves carefully unbolted it and left it next to my car. There have been theft-deterrent plates for some time, but they were only being made for the later gen Priuses, not the 1st gen ones, so I had to wait for them to be produced for my car (and in the meantime traded cars with a friend with a driveway in a nicer neighborhood.) The steel plate worked for over a year, and in the end did prevent the theft of the cat, but didn't prevent some sawing into the pipes. I kept comprehensive coverage on my 20 year old car just to pay for catalytic converters, but on the last one, AAA called my bluff and totaled the car instead of paying for it. Which was fair, given that the converter replacement cost far more than the car was worth.

The Priuses, along with some Hondas, were uniquely vulnerable because of the placement of the converter underneath the car in easy sawing reach. More recent cars had the whole thing more inside the car and not so reachable.

If you do drive a car that's vulnerable to this, I do highly recommend getting a theft-deterrent plate put on. Even though it didn't work on mine in the end.

And now I have a new electric car -- no catalytic converter or exhaust system needed. The ultimate revenge.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:43 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


We were awakened at 5 AM by the sound of the thief sawing ours off our '06 Highlander hybrid. Guy who replaced it said that those aren't the kind with the good metals in them and the thief would be lucky to get 20 bucks for it. We replaced it with an aftermarket cat and a Cat Shield and park the car behind a fence now. Stupid bunch of trouble and expense for something that maybe netted the jerk a sawbuck, but: meth.
posted by bink at 5:49 PM on June 4


I've also had mine stolen four times, and the radio another time. Three of those (2 cats, 1 radio) were a very short distance from the police station, and on video. Nothing suggested they planned to look at the video when they asked about it when I made a police report.

They often hit whole blocks at once. Recently some neighbors called 911 on thieves in the act, police arrived as they made their way down the block, talked to them, and let them go. Because "they can't do anything about it." Blamed on the DA they hate despite the DA in no way suggesting they don't arrest people for actual crime.

It would have totalled the 17 year old car if used car prices weren't also nuts right now. I'm seriously considering getting a different car when it happens again.

I was driving through rural PA one day and did see a big sign on the side of the highway : "We buy catalytic converters!"
posted by sepviva at 6:13 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I served on a grand jury earlier this year for a couple of weeks, where instead of judging one case you hear the outlines of dozens of cases to decide which ones merit trial. Amidst the parade of drug and assault charges, there was a persistent trickle of catalytic converter thefts, which seemed to expand in scope at each step as the cops worked their way up the food chain. By the end of our service it had implicated a local junkyard in a conspiracy to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cats directly from a nearby Mercedes facility using co-conspirators on the inside. Audacious, but at least they weren't ruining regular people's lives (unlike one of the earliest cases, which involved some asshole stealing them from the employee parking lot at our regional hospital at the height of COVID).
posted by Rhaomi at 5:54 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


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