By David Hodari Feb. 10, 2019 8:00 a.m. ET
Soaring palladium prices are inspiring an unusual band of criminals: catalytic converter thieves.
The exhaust-control devices common in most cars contain the silvery white precious metal, whose prices have climbed more than 50% since mid-August. Palladium is now more expensive than gold.
A supply squeeze, stricter environmental standards and the increased demand for cleaner-burning gasoline engines—which require converters with more palladium—means demand for the metal both among auto makers and thieves is likely to remain high.
Police in Chicago say perpetrators, who harvest the devices and sell the scrap metal, have converter theft down to a fine art.
“What tends to happen is that in the middle of the night, a group of guys come by with a truck and a reciprocating saw. They cut out the converter, throw it in the truck and drive away,” said Howard Ludwig, public information officer at the Chicago Police Department.
“They’ll tend to hit several blocks in the same evening with at least one guy driving the [getaway] vehicle and one underneath the car.”