It’s clear the pandemic has spurred the saying “desperate times call for desperate measures” to new heights. According to data from State Farm, from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, claims filed for catalytic converter theft grew 293% nationwide, reaching 18,000 instances as compared to the 12 months prior.
Here are two ways fleet operations have protected themselves from becoming victims that others can adapt and learn from.
Method 1: CatStrap Reduces Thefts
The County of Sacramento, California, has sustained major financial losses due to catalytic converter thefts. Due to the diverse size and location of county facilities, vehicle security has been a challenge. Many of the county’s facilities are gated, but thieves have cut through fencing to steal the valuable car parts.
Since 2019, county losses due to theft of converters have exceeded $100,000. Initially, the primary target was the Toyota Prius, but in the last year, thefts of catalytic converters have impacted all the fleet’s makes and models. When the thefts were limited to the Prius, fleet management tried protection plates to safeguard the converter; however, the plates are model-specific, labor-intensive to install, and experienced some rattles after installation. Technicians also attempted some in-house modifications to protect the exhaust, but those, too, were labor-intensive.
Since all makes and models were being targeted, the fleet department decided to install the CatStrap. This device is universal and can be installed on any vehicle that needs protection. The installation requires less labor to install versus the protection plates, and the rattle problem was also eliminated.
The strap has a high-temperature casing that contains hidden aircraft-grade steel cables that are difficult to cut. For added measure, technicians install two exhaust clamps to secure the straps to the exhaust and then tack weld the clamp nuts. Management prioritized installations on its Toyota Prius models and any vehicle parked at a vulnerable parking location. The county has not experienced an attempted theft on a CatStrap-equipped vehicle so far.
Method 2: Other Anti-Theft Device Possibilities
The City of Long Beach, California, has secured various anti-theft devices that range from shields to cabling systems that act as a deterrent to potential thieves. These include a shield made by Cat Security and a cable clamp made by CatClamp on vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Ford F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550.
Maintenance Superintendent Eric Winterset said the fleet department has offered all city departments the option to get these installed on their units if they so wish.
“Some departments chose to install these based on the unit’s parking location, while others chose not to as they feel their vehicles are in a more secure location,” he said.
As of August 2021, the city has not had a catalytic convertor stolen or even a known attempt to steal them on vehicles with an anti-theft device.
“We believe the thieves see these and realize it will take too long, so they move on,” he explained.
The various anti-theft devices range in price from $125 to $200 to purchase and take about an hour to install. This would put the department’s internal cost at around $325 to $400 to install in each vehicle.
To further prevent theft, Winterset suggested having other departments conduct a risk assessment of their current parking location. If possible, a fenced-in area with bright lighting is best. Doing so on top of researching anti-theft devices that work for your fleet’s vehicles can be a big help.
Bonus: Helping Citizens
The City of Long Beach also partnered with its Police Department to conduct a free “Etch and Sketch” program for citizens. Several of the city mechanics worked the event where citizens could bring their vehicle and have the last eight numbers of the VIN engraved onto the vehicles’ catalytic convertor. This was done so, if recovered, the part could be returned to the owner.