Protecting Church Fleets from Catalytic Converter Theft

Thieves are looking to cash-in on catalytic converters and your church’s fleet could be at risk.

A Texas man was found guilty of criminal mischief causing more than $2,500 in losses after using a reciprocating saw to cut the catalytic converter from a church bus.

The arresting officer said when someone called to complain of noise coming from the church parking lot in the middle of the night, he arrived to find a man sleeping in a black truck parked next to the church buses. A catalytic converter was found in the man’s toolbox.

Meanwhile, the church’s property manager testified that the church paid almost $3,000 to a repair shop for installation of a new catalytic converter on this bus.

Tip: Spend a little to save a lot—download Church Law & Tax’s downloadable resource, “Protecting Your Church from Crime & Violence,” to assess your church’s overall security and learn how to help prevent crime within your ministry.

Catalytic converters make easy targets

Catalytic converters are relatively easy to steal because they are accessible from the underside of a vehicle and can be sawed off with no specialized equipment in as little as 90 seconds.

And because they contain rhodium, platinum, and palladium, they’re valuable.

Platinum and palladium are both selling at about $1,000 per ounce as of February of 2023 while rhodium is fetching thousands of dollars per ounce.

Catalytic converters in a typical passenger vehicle may contain a total of about 2/10ths of an ounce of these three metals, while those in larger vehicles and trucks may contain up to one ounce.

Congress introduced the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act in early 2022 that would require the vehicle identification number (VIN) to be stamped on catalytic converters of new vehicles and would create a grant program for VIN stamping of existing vehicles.

In the meantime, take these steps to reduce the risk of catalytic converter theft at your church:

  • Check with your church insurance agent to determine if catalytic converter thefts represent a covered risk under your policy. Often, they do.
  • Keep church parking lots well-lit and install video cameras to monitor them.
  • Install vibration-sensitive alarm systems in all church vehicles.
  • Spray paint catalytic converters. Painted converters are much less desirable to thieves.
  • Etch the vehicle’s VIN on the converter.
  • Consider an all-electric fleet, as electric vehicles do not have catalytic converters.
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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