Thefts of catalytic converters from cars have “gone through the roof” in Ireland as a small number of travelling gangs cash in on the soaring price of precious metals contained in the devices, gardaí have said.
Unofficial Garda figures suggest there has been more than a three-fold surge in the number of the car parts being stolen since last year.
It is believed thieves have found a black market to sell them on – for up to €500 a part – leaving victims with repair bills that can run into thousands of euro.
Precious metals in catalytic converters – part of the exhaust system which makes pollutants less harmful – can be recycled for use in jewellery, dentistry and electronics.
The increase in thefts, often during daytime, echoes huge rises in the value of rhodium and palladium particularly, both common components in the exhaust devices. While prices fluctuate, some of the metals can trade at higher values than gold.
A Garda source, who examined recent records, said the number of reported thefts had “gone through the roof”.
“Catalytic converter thefts have gone mad,” the auto crime specialist told The Irish Times. “Last year, there was an average of 14 or 15 a month. In July alone this year there have been more than 50. There have been 28 in the first two weeks of August.”
The figures are “a minimum” because gardaí classify the crime as general car parts theft, and some catalytic converter thefts may be recorded in a way that makes them difficult to retrieve on the Garda system.
Recent reports included thefts in the car park of Dublin’s Ikea, the National Aquatic Centre as well as gyms, golf clubs and apartment complexes.