Have you noticed how large car dealers keep their sales lots well-lit at night? Most have security cameras pointed at their inventory, and the lights are needed to record anyone trespassing illegally. Most large car dealers are also located in high-traffic areas. The lights are used to discourage thieves from attempting anything sinister when staff is home sleeping. The hope is that passers-by will see anyone tampering with vehicles and call the police.
However, smaller, independent car dealers often don’t have the resources that larger, franchise operations have. This makes them more vulnerable to thieves. Unfortunately for these car dealers, a new breed of thieves are ripping off catalytic converters from their vehicle inventory now that platinum—one of the key components of these converters—has risen to over $1,800 per ounce.
Catalytic converters are an essential tool to help keep car exhaust cleaner. They contain a number of rare elements, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These elements help convert a car's toxic exhaust into less harmful gases.
Because larger SUVs require larger converters, they are more heavily targeted because the bigger the converter, the more platinum, palladium, and so on. Also, converters don’t have serial numbers, so they can’t be traced. It takes an experienced thief less than five minutes to steal a catalytic converter. Thieves are able to re-sell them to chop shops for up to a few hundred dollars, making this a lucrative venture.
This has been exactly what’s happened to small car dealers on Cleveland’s west side. According to Cleveland's news radio station WTAM, one dealer was robbed three times in the last two months. Some 13 vehicles were hit during one of those visits.
Police forces around the country have also been warning local residents to take precautions against thieves targeting catalytic converters. They warn that thefts can happen in broad daylight and even in parking lots in highly visible areas.
Police are urging individuals to park in the most visible areas possible, or even better: use parking lots that offer security attendants. Independent car dealers are left to their own accord where the only hope of discouraging thieves is with increased—and often costly—security measures.