Precious metal and gasoline theft increasing nationwide

Catalytic Converter

In times of economic downturn, people turn to stealing catalytic converters from cars, copper wire from houses and gas. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Incidents of theft of precious metals and gasoline have started to increase nationwide. Gasoline theft has been observed during previous periods of high gas prices, and people are stealing precious metals such as platinum and copper at an increasing pace. Precious metals will always have a market.

Keep an eye on the catalytic converter

One trick opportunistic criminals resort to at times is stealing catalytic converters, and it is happening with greater frequency these days, according to USA Today. Thieves will remove catalytic converters from vehicles by any means necessary because catalytic converters contain the precious metal platinum. One converter can fetch between $100 and $150. The law enforcement liaison of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., says  2,012 alerts were issued to law enforcement officials regarding scrap metal theft in 2010, which was up from 643 in 2009. The ISRI tracks how many incidents are reported to law enforcement officials regarding significant theft of scrap metal.

Make sure to call a copper

One of the other common materials for thieves to steal is copper, specifically copper wiring. A quick Google search can show just how widespread it is. Within the past month, in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., thieves made off with the copper wiring from a string of street lamps. About 10 street lights were left without power and the culprits made off with nearly a half mile of copper wire, according to the Star Tribune. During the same time period, Dougherty County, Ga., 30 mobile homes were stripped of copper in a single weekend including gutting air conditioning units, according to Fox Southwest Georgia. Also in the past month, a couple in Reyoldsburg, Ohio, was charged with stealing copper from more than 30 homes. The thieves allegedly looked at vacant home listings and took every ounce of copper they could, according to 10TV News in Columbus. They are accused of stealing copper from homes in several counties. Police credit copper having reached $3 per pound or more.

Large vehicles attract criminals

Gas prices hitting $4 per gallon is an unpleasant prospect for most and an inducement to crime for others. Gasoline thefts are being reported with greater frequency. One trick is for thieves to siphon gasoline from parked cars. Business vehicles such as delivery trucks and moving vans are fairly common targets, according to a recent article on ABC. A locking gas cap isn’t always a guarantee of keeping thieves out; some will drill through the lock or cut the gas line from the tank. Trucks and SUVs, according to Fox News, are the most frequent targets because they sit higher from the ground, and that aids siphoning. The Christian Broadcast News network reports that customers who drove off without paying stole of $89 million in gasoline from convenience stores in 2009.


USA Today

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries

Star Tribune

Fox Southwest Georgia

10 TV News Ohio



Christian Broadcast News

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