GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There’s a part in your car – in everyone’s car – that in some cases can be worth more than the value of the car itself. And thieves want it.
According to Sgt. Dan Adams with Grand Rapids Police, they’re getting them. Sgt. Adams says thefts of catalytic converters were way up in Kent County recently.
“It’s one of those things that we always seem to be fighting one way or another,” he said Tuesday. “It causes around a thousand dollars’ worth of damage to have it replaced.”
But thieves aren’t so much after the converter itself as what’s inside. Each catalytic converter contains the corrosion-resistant, precious metal rhodium, a little known but extremely valuable element. In fact, according to index listings as recent as this week, rhodium was listed as 15 times the value of gold.
And the thefts are quick, with thieves sawing off the converters sometimes in a matter of seconds, as shown in this video of a catalytic converter theft out of Wisconsin.
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, a nonprofit that works to enhance and increase the city’s green space, fell victim just last week just a few days before a tree-planting event that relied heavily on their only pickup truck.
“Our truck was making a really weird sound so we took it to the shop and, lo and behold, someone had cut out our catalytic converter,” said Stephanie Adams, executive director of the group. “Now we’re actually taking it home at night and parking it in someone’s driveway just until we can figure out a safer spot to put it.”
Luckily, insurance helped pay for most of the repair cost of Friends’ truck, but others, who Stephanie knows have befallen the same crime, haven’t been so lucky.
“I started reaching out to a few of my nonprofit friends and found out this is actually happening quite a bit more than we had thought,” she said.
Stephanie’s mechanic also told her their garage has seen an uptick in converter thefts, and car owners who need them replaced. Sgt. Adams, who is married to Stephanie, says vehicles belonging to nonprofits, church groups, and small businesses are most likely to be targeted, as the vehicles often sit unattended for long periods of time. He recommends keeping vehicles locked away if possible, in a well-lit area, surrounded by security cameras. Even still, thieves can find a way: Stephanie says their truck was locked behind nine-foot tall fencing.
“It was locked up, fenced-in area, gated,” she said. “People are willing to go through hoops to take this part off the vehicle.”
Sgt. Adams said local detectives work with scrap metal yards and garages to track illegal sales. If you have any information on any recent converter thefts, Sgt. Adams encourages you to reach out to GRPD or Silent Observer.