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Catalytic converter thefts plummet as less idle cars on Irish roads after lockdown ends

New garda figures show there was 1,433 incidents of catalytic converter (CAT) thefts nationwide in 2020 but this dropped to just 844 last year

Catalytic converters are coated with precious metals such as palladium, rhodium and platinum. Photo: Stock


Thefts of catalytic converters have decreased significantly as the removal of Covid restrictions resulted in less idle cars for thieves to target, new figures suggest.

New garda figures show there was 1,433 incidents of catalytic converter (CAT) thefts nationwide in 2020 but this dropped to just 844 last year

Sources said gardaí believe the major reduction in CAT thefts is because with the country no longer subjected to Covid-related lockdowns, the opportunity for criminals has diminished for them to target vehicles left idle as many worked from home.

As of May 4 this year, there were 109 reported CAT thefts with no major spike reported during the summer months.

Sources said arrest operations over the last two years have also helped in driving the theft rate down.

A CAT is a section of a vehicle’s exhaust where gases from the engine are passed through a rare metal, such as platinum, which causes a chemical reaction to occur that eliminates harmful pollutants.

The devices have become rich pickings for organised criminals worldwide, because as gardai warn, the items “cannot be uniquely traced to one vehicle”.

It can cost up to €2,500 to replace a CAT and a vehicle is highly unlikely to pass an NCT without one.

CATs contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which are then brought by the gangs to specialist metal refiners who can extract the precious metals inside.

The price of these metals has been increasing worldwide with palladium now more valuable than gold.

Depending on the type of CAT, there can be up to seven grams of precious metals inside and criminals can get anything from €100 to €300 for each unit they steal.

One of the big problems facing gardaí is that criminals can remove the CAT from the vehicle in the space of just two minutes. Sources said it is “virtually impossible” to detect the criminal unless they are caught in the act.

A number of suspects are before the courts in relation to this type of crime.

Up-to-date arrest figures for criminals involved in the theft of CAT’s are not available, but last year Justice Minister Helen McEntee told the Dáil that there were 18 arrests in 2020, compared to 15 in 2019. There had been fewer than 10 arrests up to February 23 last year.

She was responding to a parliamentary question by Social Democrats co-leader and Róisín Shortall

Ms McEntee said: “I understand that the current interest in catalytic converter theft may be directly associated with the current high price of palladium available on the market.”

The minister also said those involved in this type of crime can be prosecuted under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 which provides for offences of theft, the handling of stolen property and the possession of stolen property.

She also explained that The Waste Management (Facility Permit and Registration) Regulations Act 2014 imposed an obligation on businesses to apply due diligence measures to ensure the traceability of any waste bought.

Despite the major reduction in this type of crime, gardaí warned people to remain vigilant and park their vehicles in a locked garage if possible. If this is not possible, they recommend parking in a secure, well-lit and well-populated area.​​​​​​

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