CatBurglers are Prowling the Streets of Detroit

Now that most of the copper has been scraped clean from the numerous abandoned buildings in Detroit, it seems that thieves have moved on to our parked cars.

I’ve spoken to several people who have had the catalytic converters stolen from under their parked cars overnight or in the early morning. My neighbor in the relatively quiet Woodbridge neighborhood had his catalytic converter stolen in the early morning. A turn of the key in the ignition resulted in a loud engine roar that could very well have awakened the rest of the block. Another neighbor reported that she saw a guy in a Crown Victoria get out of his car, get under my neighbor’s car for about 1 minute, and take off with a large metal object seconds later.

That’s all it took: a total of about two minutes to stop, saw, and go.

Thieves steal catalytic converters for the precious metals they contain–platinum, palladium, and rhodium–and apparently, the same corrupt scrapyards that bought all of that lifted copper are just fine with buying stolen converters. A stolen catalytic converter could cost the victim between $200 to $1000 depending upon the model of the car and the shop.

This is just the kind of non-violent crime that can be prevented if neighborhood watches were more effective. Organizing with your neighbors, turning your porch lights on at night, and just hanging out in your hood can prevent thieves from hanging around since they’ll know there’s a neighborhood presence and watchful eyes. These thieves are probably very smart and scout out a neighborhood before working it for converters. Detroiters, it’s about time you meet your neighbors…for your own good.

Apparently, SUVs and Toyota trucks are the most common victims because of their high bumpers and the amount of precious metals contained in their converters, but I’ve heard stories of people with mid-sized cars who have had converters stolen as well.

If your catalytic converter is stolen, its best not to start your car and drive–the converter is part of the exhaust system and driving could badly damage other parts of your engine, leading to even more damage to your car and your wallet. Call a tow truck.

A Toledo company has developed a deterrent device called the CatClamp, but I called and the cost is upwards of $250, which is a bit too expensive for my blood, even though the possibility of the alternative would be much worse.

Any other ideas of how to deter CatBurglers? Please do share in our comment section.

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