ESD 112 Insurance Programs Risk Alert
Dear Risk Cooperative Member:

Catalytic converter thefts reached epidemic levels last year and, unfortunately, the numbers continue to rise. Recent thefts from school district facilities, including parking lots, serve as a reminder this expensive issue still exists.

Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain the precious metals platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The metals are expensive and can be sold to scrap yards for several hundred dollars per piece. It can cost up to $2,000 to replace a catalytic converter, and it is illegal to drive a vehicle without one.

A saw or wrench is used to quickly remove catalytic converters, depending on whether they are bolted or welded in, and removal can take as little as two minutes, allowing theft to occur easily in broad daylight. Trucks, SUVs, and buses are often targeted because it is easy to slide under the vehicle rather than jack it up.

Here are some things you can do to protect your vehicles:
  • If not parked in a garage, park in a well-lit area or near security cameras.
  • Park district vehicles in a more secure setting, such as behind a locked and fenced lot. Post signs on the fencing warning that the lot is under video surveillance.
  • Install surveillance equipment around your property. Sometimes even the presence of security cameras can deter a thief. Consider PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras that have low-light capability. Many districts are capturing these events on video, but the video quality for nighttime occurrences is often not clear enough for the police to identify suspects.
  • Install motion activated lights near the parking area.
  • Consider etching your vehicle’s VIN number into the catalytic converter. Some law enforcement agencies suggest painting your catalytic converter with a high-temperature fluorescent orange paint, such as those sprayed on barbecue grills. This may deter a thief from stealing it, as it makes the part easily identifiable, and many scrap yards and recyclers will not buy them if they have been marked.
  • If you can, add additional security on your district’s property, such as a security patrol. Ask your local law enforcement to increase their patrols near your district’s vehicle storage lots.
  • Having the converter welded in place makes it more difficult to remove.
  • If you have a security system on your car, calibrate it so vibration sets it off.
  • At school, park as close to the building entrance as you can, or near areas where pedestrian traffic is high.
  • Alert staff to this problem and ask them to be vigilant, especially if they see people “working” on parked vehicles or notice vehicles that are just cruising through the parking lot.
If your district experiences the theft of a catalytic converter from a district-owned vehicle and/or if you have questions about this alert, please call ESD 112 Insurance Programs at 360-750-7504 or contact Trista Greenwood at or Wendy Niehaus at
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