HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Catalytic converter thefts are happening frequently, but now people are finding new ways to stop thieves from stealing them.

Catalytic converters are auto devices that neutralize harmful gases in engine exhaust that contribute to air pollution and smog, according to the Virginia State Police Heat Program’s website. Catalytic converters contain metals that are more precious than gold, such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. When stolen, thieves take the part to a scrap yard or recycler in exchange for cash.

Wilders auto repair shop says nearly 20 catalytic converters were stolen over the past year in three different instances. The stolen converters were worth about $20,000 in total.

Wilder Auto Repair shop worker holding a catalytic converter without the casing. Photo credit: Rolynn Wilson.

Since then, they have added 16 new cameras on their property with motion sensors and light to catch thieves in action.

Catalytic converter thefts have increased throughout Central Virginia, causing people to find creative ways to prevent people from stealing them. This includes spray painting the outside and engraving their license plate or VIN number on it. While these tricks may be useful, owner Roger Wilder of Wilders Auto Repair said this is not the most effective tactic.

“They could just gut it and put it in a box in a bucket and still sell it,” said Roger Wilder, owner of Wilders Auto Repair.

Instead, he recommends getting a Cat Shield, which is a device that acts as a metal shield surrounding the catalytic converter. While it is more difficult to install and requires a special tool. Wilder says this makes it very difficult for thieves to steal the part that they are looking for because it will take longer to remove this shield and is noisy.

Henrico Police found that most catalytic converter thefts happen at night from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. They also found that the most targeted cars were:

  • Ford and Chevrolet: full-size passenger vans, including box trucks, commercial vans, and minibusses
  • Toyota: Prius, which has two catalytic converters
  • Honda: Element, Accord and Civic models

Henrico Police asks the public to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.