HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Wednesday, Oct. 11, KHON2 News looked into the reasons for the drastic drop in catalytic converter thefts in Hawaii. Everyone we spoke with pointed to new laws that went into effect. But after a little more digging, it turned out that was only part of the answer.
Catalytic converter thieves ran rampant not just in Hawaii but throughout the country for about three years. State lawmakers made the crime a felony and then required buyers and sellers to document the sale of them.
The result, just over a hundred thefts reported on Oahu in 2023, compared to 1,602 and 2,008 the previous two years. But those aren’t the only reasons. The price of the precious metals in the catalytic converters, platinum, palladium, and rhodium has dropped dramatically.
“Rhodium was trading at $28,000 an ounce and now I think it’s about $4,000 an ounce, so it’s significant,” said Nick Nutter, vice-president at Island Recycling.
Nutter said platinum and palladium also went down, but not as much.
He points out that before, most catalytic converters would sell for about a few hundred dollars each. Now the going rate is closer to $50.
Nutter added that thieves went after the Toyota Prius the most.
“The Prius was probably one of the most expensive ones. It basically had the most rhodium and they were going for about $1,000 a converter,” he said.
He said now they probably go for about $350. Recyclers said the combination of making the crime a felony, having to document the sale, and getting less money for the parts, has made the crime less appealing.
“For a low price why go to prison for five years? It’s hard for them to sell them now, we don’t really buy it from the public anymore,” said Dave Williams, owner of Auto Cats.
As to why the prices have gone down so much, recyclers say the current prices are actually closer to normal. They skyrocketed in part during the pandemic because the mines were forced to close, causing chaos in the market. But like other markets, there are many factors that can influence it.
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“It’s always gonna fluctuate. You have your ups and downs and you just have to go with the flow until something happens, depending on how the market reacts,” said Nutter.