According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of catalytic converter thefts and the most targeted automaker is Toyota.
Well, first of all, what is a catalytic converter? The catalytic converter is part of the car’s emissions control system. It cleans up the exhaust gases before they are expelled from the car through the exhaust pipe. Its internal elements react with the gases, breaking them down into less harmful substances and water vapour. All cars sold in Europe since 1993 have had to be fitted with catalytic converters by law.
Second, why are they a target for thieves? Clearly, the police are best placed to offer advice on the motives behind this crime, but we understand that the value of the catalytic converter for recycling is the main attraction to thieves, because they contain precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium.
Selangor police head Datuk Hussein Omar Khan reported that a recent spate of arrests of cat converter thieves began with a report made by a Toyota Estima owner on June 12. The owner reports that he had left the MPV at the MRT Serdang parking lot in the morning and returned to it at night where he noticed the catalytic converter was missing.
Following that, the police made their first arrest on June 18 in the Tropicana Gardens Mall in PJ, and the first suspect, a 34-year-old Malaysian, helped them make their second arrest, which was a 43-year-old Malaysian, in KL. Along with the tools required to carry out the thefts, like saws and jacks, police also recovered 46 catalytic converters worth a combined RM35,000 during the arrests.
The first suspect is a worker at an auto parts store in Subang as an assistant, and the second is a collection agent for exhaust components in KL. The two only steal catalytic converters from Toyota vehicles, and their method of choice is to target cars sitting in unattended LRT/MRT parking lots. The products are taken by the first suspect, who then passes them to the second suspect, who sells the stolen goods to foreign purchasers who are interested in the catalytic converter’s platinum, palladium, and rhodium.
According to Hussein, the first suspect has been stealing catalytic converters since early June since there is an international market for the products. Each catalytic converter is worth between RM500 and RM2,500, according to the authorities. The police claim that with these arrests, they have put an end to 15 theft cases involving catalytic converters in the Klang Valley.
The two suspects will face charges under Section 379A(1) of the Penal Code, and if proven guilty, they could get a sentence of up to seven years in prison, a fine, and/or both.
What is Toyota doing to stop its cars from being targeted?
Well, Toyota UK said in May 2021 that it would covertly mark more than 100,000 catalytic converters to deter theft. By collaborating with the police and Smartwater (a risk management firm), catalytic converters can be marked with an unnoticeable but traceable marking. This enables the police to link a stolen catalytic converter to a specific crime and pursue the organised gangs who are responsible. All people handling the gadgets along the criminal supply chain, from theft to final destruction and recycling, are likewise put at greater risk.
However, there are alternative techniques to potentially stop your car from becoming a victim of theft, even if it is impossible to totally stop theft. If you’re going out, try to park in well-lit, busy areas whenever you can, and think about adding a catalytic converter anti-theft device or a vibration-triggered vehicle alarm. More so if you happen to own a Prius, which is right at the top of the target list for catalytic converter theft in the United States since its converter contains more precious metals.