Is another surge in Catalytic Converter Theft on the way?

It is clear that the economic impact caused by the pandemic has contributed to a massive surge in vehicle related crime.  In 2020 alone there were 74,760 vehicle thefts in the UK – that’s 1 every 7 minutes. That figure is almost 20,000 more than in 2019.

However, it is not just the theft of ‘whole cars’ that has seen a massive increase. Due to production limitations, supply chain issues and the rising prices of raw materials – demand for car parts and ‘what is in them’ has driven a significant rise in thefts which includes catalytic converters and LED headlights.

As a leading remote monitoring central station, Fasight is well placed to spot evolving crime trends, like the rise of vehicle related thefts.  In fact in Nov 2020 we issued a security warning about a surge in LED headlight thefts sweeping across the UK.  However, catalytic converter theft has been the most significant increase since 2020 and on into 2021.

This rise in catalytic converter theft attempts continued into 2021 prompted us to publish a security warning back in April.

Since then catalytic converter theft has rocketed even further. Figures published by ‘i News’ estimate that in the UK there were at least 21,000 incidents of catalytic converter theft in 2020 alone, a whopping 64% increase on 2019. That works out at an average of 1,750 converters being stolen every month compared to 1,062 a month in 2019.

But what has changed in 2021?

Catalytic Converter Theft in 2021

Police forces across the UK have done a great deal to address this spiralling crime trend in 2021.  This includes a major operation in April led by British Transport Police, codenamed ‘Goldiron‘. This operation saw police forces join experts from the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, the Environment Agency, Smartwater Group and the motor industry to tackle catalytic converter theft.

Between Monday 19 and Friday 23 April, officers and partner agencies:

  • made 56 arrests
  • visited 926 sites (catalytic converter process plants, scrap metal dealers, vehicle dismantles and catalytic converter buyers)
  • stopped 664 vehicles
  • recovered 1,037 stolen catalytic converters and 297 items of stolen property
  • identified 244 offences

This and other crime prevention initiatives across the UK have contributed to a drop of 57% in reported catalytic converter thefts in 2021, according to the below figures released by  National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) in their article ‘Catalytic converter thefts drop as people take action to protect their vehicles’

Indeed, reported catalytic converter theft figures for the first 7 months of 2021 show a a high of 3,245 incidents in March with a steady decline to 1,378 in July. In particular there was a sharp decline in April, the month that Operation Goldiron was actioned.

However, the fact remains that a total of 16,383 catalytic converter theft incidents were recorded over the 7 month period equating to an average of 2,340 catalytic converter theft incidents a month.

Comparing this to the monthly average in incidents in 2020 of 1,750 – this shows a an increase of 34%. Compared to 2019’s average of 1,062 per month this shows a massive 120% increase in catalytic converter thefts.

Even though the reported crime figures show a downward trend – unfortunately, the catalytic converter theft issue is is still very much ‘alive and kicking’ which becomes very evident when scanning the news channels:

> Catalytic converter theft in Willesden Green highlights growing problem – Kilburn Times, Nov 2021

> Thieves target cars for catalytic converters across Norfolk – Eastern Daily Press, Nov 2021

> Catalytic converter thief in Sainsbury’s car park – Harrow Times, Oct 2021

> Catalytic converter thief in Sainsbury’s car park – Harrow Times, Oct 2021

West Midlands Police warning after spate of catalytic converter thefts across the Black Country – Express & Star, Sep 2021

New reports of theft incidents like these above seem to be increasing again and as a leading remote monitoring central station we too are starting to see what could be another significant surge in catalytic converter theft attempts. In fact, our CCTV monitoring team responded to one last last night.

Theft attempts appear to be becoming more daring, blatant and increasingly violent in some cases:

> Three people assaulted, one being seriously hurt, by gang whilst stealing catalytic converters in Surrey – BBC, Nov 2021

> Baclava-clad thugs brandishing baseball bats steal catalytic converter from car dealer in three and a half minutes – Car Dealer Magazine, Aug 2021

We are even hearing about delivery trucks being raided before they even get to deliver cat converters to their destinations.

But why the urgency to steal these car parts? What is so valuable a prize to warrant such a crime surge instilling such determination in thieves?

The simple answer is what’s inside these catalytic converters – rare metals that are in high demand across the globe. We believe that theft numbers are directly correlated to demand for these metals and their rising values – which we explore below, but first let’s look at these rare metals…

Why are catalytic converters so attractive to thieves?

cat

It is what is inside catalytic converters that is so valuable to thieves, namely: Palladium, Platinum and the ultimate prize – Rhodium.

These rare metals are valuable indeed, and based on current UK scrap values – this is what they are worth per gram in the UK:

Platinum £22.3 per gram

Palladium £43 per gram (more than 22 carat gold)

Rhodium £250 per gram (7 x the value of 22 carat gold)

So what is a catalytic converter actually worth to a thief?

Average catalytic converter are worth between £381 – £957 at scrap value for thieves. Below we have matched the amounts of these metals present in catalytic converters to their scrap metal values:

2-7 grams of Palladium = £86 – £301

3-7 grams of platinum = £45 – £156

1-2 grams of rhodium = £250 – £500

Considering the numerous reports of thieves stealing up ten or fifteen a night in some areas, this makes for a lucrative haul for criminals who are becoming increasingly brazen and even violent in their attempts to secure their prize.

Is there a correlation between fluctuations in rare metal values and numbers of catalytic converter thefts in 2021?

We have looked at the rise and fall of the market values of Palladium, Platinum and Rhodium and it seems that there is a direct link to the surge in catalytic converter theft figures. Take the most valuable – Rhodium, for example.  These are the trading value ranges for the first 7 months of 2021:

Rhodium value 2021

Source: Trading Economics (values were taken at the 1st of each month)

This shows a remarkable similarity to the peaks and troughs of reported catalytic converter thefts that track the highest values in March and May. So too do the ‘dips’ match – a decrease in April and between May and July.  The latter slump is in line with manufacturing issues in the automotive industry which makes up 90% of Rhodium’s demand.

Let us remind ourselves of the similar trends in reported catalytic converter thefts between Jan-July 2021:

These overlay almost perfectly and if the demand and associated values of these metals are indeed driving the reported theft numbers, then this raises a major concern, why?

Because trading values are on the up again, and if they are linked, then there is a strong likelihood we are in for another surge in catalytic converter thefts imminently:

Rhodium value increase 2021

As leading Alarm & CCTV remote monitoring central station, Farsight is sensitive to these types of potential upward crime trends and our security operators are already on high vigilance in readiness to mitigate a surge in catalytic converters theft attempts from client site that we monitor –  should this be the case.

How to minimise the risk of Catalytic Converter theft

Police recommend steps you can take to reduce the opportunity for a criminal to steal your catalytic converter:

  • Don’t park your car/van half on the pavement as it makes it easier for the thieves to get underneath it.
  • If you have a diesel van or other high clearance vehicles having your catalytic converter marked, or secured can deter thieves who steal them for the precious metal components.
  • Park in a garage or other secure area if possible.
  • Consider property marking your catalytic converter. It is cheap and may reduce your insurance.
  • A sign in your window saying your catalytic converter has been marked may well deter thieves.

You can also buy clamps to secure your catalytic converter to your vehicle and get marking kits which are an effective deterrent against catalytic converter theft.

For businesses however, the benefits provided by CCTV remote monitoring are increasingly being employed as a crucial measure, as part of their security defences to protect their assets, premises and people.

The use of remotely monitored CCTV has many benefits in protecting businesses from vehicle crime, such as the potential to proactively deter incidents in real time and to prevent them progressing with a rapid response escalation in contrast to just retrospective reflection once the incident has happened and loss/damage has occurred.

See how remote monitoring with Farsight works:

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Speak to the remote monitoring security experts

Farsight has worked across the automotive sector, particularly car dealerships car showrooms and vehicle hire groups for many years and considers itself as a leading remote security monitoring partner working with businesses large and small.

Our security team would be happy to discuss your security optimisation needs to help you mitigate against the threat of catalytic converter theft  or vehicle crime, whether you are a security installer or responsible for site security. Simply drop us a line via our contact form below, request a call back or give us a call on 0845 371 0101.

Further resources relating to UK vehicle Crime

As a leading remote security monitoring partner working extensively across the automotive sector, we regularly publish articles, security alerts and more to keep you in the loop on trends that are impacting on the security. Like these:

cars reported stolen
> How many cars reported stolen in the UK in 2020? 

car headlight thefts

> Security Warning: Car Headlights Being Targeted By Thieves 

Catalytic Converter Thefts

         > Surge in Catalytic Converter Thefts 2021