KENT COUNTY, Mich. — For the entire year of 2020, Kent County experienced catalytic converter theft just four times. So far in 2021, there have already been 83 incidents. So what's causing such a massive spike?
"We saw this even before police did," says Amber Kendrick. "We saw the trends going up."
Kendrick owns Pete's Auto Parts in Grandville. The recycling and scrap yard doesn't buy individual parts, rather whole vehicles, but she says catalytic converter theft is easy to predict.
"You see the metals going up and it's like, 'oh here we go.'"
The metals she's talking about specifically are rhodium, platinum and palladium - precious metals found inside the catalytic converters. As the prices rise, so do theft numbers. And prices have certainly been rising.
According to Mining.com, at this time last year, a single troy ounce of rhodium was worth $8,000. Today, that same amount is worth $18,000, more than doubling in value.
"It's a lot, I would say we used to get a call for a catalytic converter a couple times a month," Kendrick says. "Now it's daily."
And when someone calls, whether something was stolen or simply broken down, there's not much Kendrick or her team can do.
That's because it's illegal to sell used catalytic converters. That means parts shops won't buy converters without an accompanying title to prove where the converter came from.
"If catalytic converters could be resold, it's possible that you'd have even more of a theft problem than there already is," Kendrick said.
Unable to resell them, Kendrick says keeping the converters around could only bring trouble. As soon as a car hits the lot, the countdown starts to get the converter out, scrapped and get those metals sold.
"Almost instantly," Kendrick said. "Once the vehicles arrive we're cutting the (catalytic converters) out of them so we can turn the precious metals to cash so someone else can't do that before us."
For your own vehicle's safety, the Kent County Sheriff's Office recommends parking indoors whenever possible, or parking somewhere with surveillance. They also suggested purchasing a lock to help secure your catalytic converter.
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