Scrap metal dealers are a huge part of the problem. Most will still buy stolen material because there is money to be made. If they are prosecuted there will be a diminished market for converters therefore fewer will be stolen. But what cop is going to get excited about stolen catalytic converters?
PRScott has it right, from the crime side,why put any effort into something that Insurance is going to cover. Most people forget people driving old Honda's etc do not carry full coverage insurance and they are the true victims.If there was no market for stolen materials there would be no crime. It has to be stopped at the larger level than the person doing the cutting. Cops know that most junk yards are full of stolen cars trucks parts etc. But few ever get charged and almost none get convicted of anything.
To make ends meet? You're giving thieves an out. A thief is a person to lazy to take on the responsibility of a mature adult and get a job and try to plan for bumps in the road like unemployment due too ANYTHING. We were all affected by Covid in one way or the other. The majority of us didn't go out and steal from our neighbors to "make ends meet". I have no time or pity for them.
A while back, it was only the SUVs and pickups that they were hitting, mainly because there is plenty of clearance to get underneath. I can't imagine how they could get under my Chevy Volt to hack it off, unless they jack up. The ground clearance is not even enough room to get my arm under there, not to mention the Sawzall. Can't say the same for my older cars, but most of those are inside, most of the time.
I STRONGLY challenge the "several hundred dollars" a scrap yard would offer for a stolen catalytic converter. If you go to popular car-part web sites and look at what BRAND NEW catalytic converters sell for, you will find they are as inexpensive as $200 for many commonly stolen replacements (cats from manufacturers cost 5 to 10 times more, not because they cost more to manufacture, but because that is how much markup you pay for most any manufacturer spare part. If you can get a replacement cat for $200 that does the same job as the original, there is NO WAY a scrap yard will pay "several hundred" since there isn't going to be "several hundred" worth of precious metal in a cat. There are, for example, about 5 grams or 0.18 of an ounce of platinum in a cat (according to a search, I have no way of knowing that the claim is accurate). At today's price of close to $1250 an ounce, the platinum in a cat has the potential to be worth around $225. BUT when the source is a stolen cat, the price paid is not going to be anywhere NEAR $225. A Honda Element replacement cat can be purchased for under $200 (not a Honda part, but same size as original... not necessarily identical in shape, but close enough in shape to fit without issues). It is HIGHLY unlikely those cats contain 5 grams of platinum since that would cost a legitimate manufacturer more than they could sell the cat for. Reviews of inexpensive replacement cats indicate they pass CA emissions tests (CA requirements are copied by 16 other states also) which are required every second year when plates are renewed. My guess would be that thieves might get $50-$60 for a stolen cat... because it is STOLEN and anyone handling it has a lot of risk. But if you can steal 10 an hour, you might make $500 which isn't bad for an hour of work with a saws-all. The tragedy is how muffler shops rip off insurance companies and owners who lack theft insurance or who have a high deductible. In CA, a Honda Element owner was quoted as much as $7000 to replace the cat with a Honda cat (which carries an unnecessarily high cost of purchase), though some shops were more like $3000. Only an independent muffler shop was honest with this person, saying they would replace the stolen Honda Element cat for $600 using an aftermarket cat and they would guarantee the cat would pass CA emissions.
Inexpensive replacement cat example... Magnaflow, a well known and respected supplier of aftermarket replacement exhaust systems for high performance and/or sound-quality, makes several "universal" cats in different shapes that sell for $187 on Advanced Auto Parts.
As someone who sold auto parts for many years, I can tell you from experience that the cheap aftermarket converters are exactly that: cheap. The OEM converters are expensive because they are better built, will last longer, and will do a better job of reducing emissions.
As far as the parts markup that you mention, it’s usually higher on the aftermarket side.
Knock the market out of it. Pass a law where all scrape yards and recyclers are prohibited from taking that stuff in. They won't touch it with a ten foot pole. When the entire vehicle is eventually off the road, only then will these parts be processed by the yard the vehicle ends up in. Simple as that. Back in East Hartford, there was a scum bag going up and down the street hitting all the small auto repair shops during the night jacking up cars enough to slide under there and cut the cats off. One morning, one of the shop owners came in to open up that day and found a pair of legs sticking out from underneath one of the cars. The jack he was using slipped out and the car came down and crushed the sonuvabitch! End of problem. Funny how I noticed right after the news of that happening, I no longer had to keep replacing the locks on my enclosed trailers that were repeatedly being cut off everyweek down at my shop. POS...Got what he deserved!
Does anyone see the bull**bleep** here of the whole "clean air" carp, and the billions of dollars spent of our tax money on a band aid that doesn't work, and the unintended consequences that this bill has cost us? Things are so bad now that people are destroying our cars just to get the STUPID cat converter. Now we, the tax payers and hard workers have to pay even more for something that was, in my view, never needed. I'm sorry if this offends. Remember, it's just my opinion.
I was a parts manager at a Honda dealership in the SF Bay Area a few years ago. We had parts delivered in the middle of the night. We got lax and did not lock our delivery area to separate it from our parts storage area- guess who stole over $10,000 dollars in catalytic converters from us and a like amount from a neighboring dealer? Yep, the freight delivery driver. Lesson learned- we went back to locking up the delivery area...
I remember buying new catalytic convertors for $75 not too long ago. I had put a 3" performance exhaust on my Firebird and did not want to put the original 2" cat back on, that sounded silly, so I got a 3" catalytic convertor and had it put on.
Here in CA, stealing is now legal (no implications unless you hurt somebody in the process, and usually not even then). Plus, they can still collect their exorbitant "unemployment" benefits simultaneously. So, this is far more lucrative than working, and people chose to do it, and our society lets them.