Reno Police this week said they’re taking a second approach to putting a stop to catalytic converter thefts in northern Nevada. In addition to working to catch the thieves, the department is teaming up with the city’s Business Compliance Division to help reduce the market for stolen catalytic converters.
Reno Police on June 8 cited CG Metals, a local recycling center, for “both failing to acquire the necessary information on a scrap purchase, and on failing to report transactions as required.”
“The goal of these audits is to identify businesses which are not adhering to statutory reporting requirements, and in the process may be purchasing stolen catalytic converters,” an RPD spokesperson said.
In 2013, the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 235 enabling local law enforcement to create electronic reporting systems for scrap metal dealers and processors to report certain purchases of scrap metal. It also required the dealers to maintain certain records.
Businesses that don’t follow the reporting requirements may have their business license revoked and could be subject to additional penalties.
A hot commodity
The rash of catalytic converter thefts plaguing vehicle owners in northern Nevada isn’t new, and it isn’t limited to the area. NPR reported in May that car owners across the nation are starting up their cars only to find a part missing.
Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, filtering out the most harmful pollutants before they can leave the exhaust system. Inside, they contain precious metals, including platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold.
Right now, rhodium is the hot commodity. It’s a byproduct of platinum production, which has stalled due to a surplus of the metal. That means there’s a shortage of rhodium on the market. In March, the Washington Post reported the shortage could continue into 2025.
The value of rhodium has dropped since early May, when it hit $29,500 per ounce, and now sits at about $22,500 per ounce according to Mining.com. A year ago, it was valued at just under $9,000 per ounce. For comparison, gold is valued at just under $1,800 per ounce in the current market.
There’s a fraction of an ounce of rhodium or other metals in each catalytic converter, meaning thieves will likely only get a few hundred dollars for each unit. Thieves may be making up for it by filching more units. Stealing the parts can be done quickly and easily—in as little as two minutes with a wrench or reciprocating saw—according to consumer auto guide Edmunds.
“The most commonly hit vehicles are SUVs and trucks, especially late-model Toyotas, because they sit higher off the ground (making for easier access) and the bolts that connect the converter are easily removed,” Edmunds reports.
Keeping cars in well-lit areas or locked in garages is the best way to head off the thieves. Edmunds also recommends making sure the auto’s theft detection system is on.
Kate Sedinger had the catalytic converter out of her Toyota Prius stolen three times within the past two years—twice within a month—while the car was parked in her Reno driveway. The third time it was stolen, in late May, she said she didn’t even want to bring the car home from the repair shop.
“After I got it repaired the most recent time, I wouldn’t even bring it home because I knew as soon as the thieves saw it, they’d know [the catalytic converter] had been replaced and would hit it again,” Sedinger said. “I parked it in my parents’ garage until I could sell it.”
She’s since gotten a different car that she hopes will be less of a target.
“The shop I took it to had multiple Priuses with catalytic converter thefts in the same week, both of the most recent times,” Sedinger said. She counted four of the cars in early May and six in late May, all having stolen catalytic converters replaced.
The thefts have been a financial drain too. Sedinger said she had to pay a $500 deductible for each replacement, and her insurance—“I have comprehensive coverage,” she said—covered the remaining $2,500 each time.
“It’s a big problem and it feels like no one is doing anything about it,” she said.
Reno Police, however, say their investigation is ongoing. They’re urging anyone with information to call the Reno Police Department’s non-emergency line at 775-334-2677.
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with 20 years’ experience working in communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. In her free time, she is a volunteer backpacking guide along the Tahoe Rim Trail, an avid home cook and baker, cyclist, wife and stepmom.