Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise: Protect Ministry Vehicles

Stricter car emissions rules around the world have sent demand for the precious metals in catalytic converters surging. That has pushed up the asking price for some of the precious metals used in the device — like palladium and rhodium — to record highs. This, combined with the fact that one can be stolen in just minutes, is making vehicles a common target.

Across the nation, police are reporting a surge in catalytic converter theft cases and we’ve seen a rise in claims from our ministry customers over the month.

And it’s not just vehicles you need to protect. Thieves also look for opportunities to nab copper from air conditioning units and other HVAC systems.

Protect Your Property

Thieves are opportunists. They want easy access, so they can get what they want quickly and escape without notice. By hindering access and making detection more likely, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Here are some ideas to consider.

Hinder Access

- Store vehicles inside locked garages or sheds. If that’s not an option, have members drive vehicles home each night, so they’re not left in parking lots.

- Enclose church property with a secure fence.

- Post “no trespassing” signs.

- Place a cage or fence around air conditioning units.

- Secure the electrical power shut-off switch. Move the switch, if it’s located near the air conditioning units.

- Remove ladders and other items offering easy access to rooftop HVAC units.

- Replace copper downspouts with other materials.

- Don’t leave copper plumbing, gutters, or wiring on construction sites.

Improve Likelihood of Detection

- Ask church members to drive past the church when they’re in the neighborhood, looking for suspicious cars, people, or activity.

- Invite church neighbors to call police if they notice unusual activity.

- Have local police patrol your property regularly during evening and night hours.

- Use security cameras to monitor target areas, including construction sites. Some systems feature motion activation and can contact police if activity is detected.

- Increase lighting around HVAC units and places where thieves might hide.

- Install alarms on HVAC units. A sensor can be set to trigger an alarm if the power to the AC unit is disconnected or if the AC coolant level drops.

Protect Unoccupied Buildings

If any ministry buildings are vacant or temporarily unoccupied, it’s important to protect them. Thieves are more likely to strike empty buildings, since they're less likely to get caught. You’ll want to protect not only the building’s air conditioner, but also any copper plumbing or valuables that may be inside.

Here are some suggestions:

- Visit vacant or unoccupied buildings regularly to make sure they’re secure.

- Stagger your visits to make them unpredictable. Don’t show up every Tuesday at 2 p.m.

- Make them look “lived in.” Shovel snow, mow the lawn, collect newspapers and mail, place lights on timers, and leave a radio or television set on during your absence.

- Ask neighbors and police to keep an eye on the place.

- Keep fire and burglar alarm systems operational, so authorities are alerted to problems.

Also, it’s important to let your insurance agent know if any buildings listed on your policy are vacant or unoccupied. If a loss occurs after a building has been unoccupied for more than 60 days, your policy may exclude the loss or reduce your payment by 15 percent.

This makes protecting your investment even more significant, since your church would bear a greater share of any loss.