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Catalytic converters are critical to the environment. Their primary purpose is to help clean the exhaust gasses from internal combustion cars to help reduce their impact on air quality. Nearly every vehicle on public roads is required to have one.

Beyond catalytic converters being important for the environment, they are also very valuable, unfortunately, making them a target for theft. It is not uncommon for a car owner to experience catalytic converter theft after leaving their vehicle parked at a local store or even in front of their house overnight.

Some thieves try to go for even bigger targets than the occasional car parked at a mall or restaurant. Recently, a team of thieves successfully stole a large quantity of catalytic converters from an unlikely source.

Nearly 20 catalytic converters stolen from school buses

A fleet of school buses similar to those that had their catalytic converters stolen in Oregon
A fleet of school buses | Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

According to a local report from CBS KOIN in Portland, Oregon, almost 20 school buses that serve the Reynolds School District are now out of commission because they are missing catalytic converters.

At some point between Friday, September 10th, 2021, and Sunday, September 12, thieves broke into a parking lot housing a fleet of the district’s school buses and stole their catalytic converters. The school district was unaware of the theft until Monday morning, September 13th, when some drivers started their buses and noticed the loud engine noise associated with catalytic converter theft.

After checking the entire lot, school district officials discovered that 19 school busses and three other fleet vehicles had their catalytic converters cut out.

The district was able to source some extra buses to compensate, but the stolen catalytic converters resulted in $70,000 in damage. There is an insurance policy to cover the theft, but it could be a long time before the buses are repaired due to current parts shortages.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has security camera footage of the theft they are reviewing, but they have not released it to the public yet.

Why are catalytic converters stolen?

The inside of a catalytic converter.
The inside of a catalytic converter | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Some of you might be wondering why thieves would want to steal a catalytic converter? The answer is that the thieves are after what is inside of them.

Catalytic converters use precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These metals are very valuable and can fetch a lot of money if extracted from a catalytic converter.

Catalytic converter thieves often target large vehicles such as trucks and buses for two reasons. The first is that larger vehicles are easier to get underneath than the average passenger car, making it easier to steal catalytic converters.

The second reason is that trucks and buses tend to have larger catalytic converters because they have larger engines. A larger catalytic converter means more of the aforementioned precious metals inside, making them more valuable.

If you’re worried about your catalytic converter being stolen, look into getting a catalytic converter shield installed as it provides some protection against theft.


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