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Parking lot surveillance reveals unusual car thefts

Published by Jennifer on July 11, 2007 9:38 AM

Usually, when parking a car in a lot at a mall, you get the standard security reminder: hide your belongings, lock your car, take your valuables with you. These are thought to be the best way to prevent break-ins, car theft, and expensive repair for things like broken windows. However, a rash of unusual crimes around the Washington, D.C. metro area has made parking lot security officials think twice about the standard precautions.

Parking lot video surveillance systems in and around Washington D.C. have recorded criminals going for what's on the outside of the car - a change from the stereos and glove box loot the thieves usually go for. The steal of the moment? Catalytic converters. This car part is important for car emissions, helping reduce the toxicity of the emissions made in normal driving mode. Catalytic converters are standard on most every car and truck, along with buses, tractors and other gas-powered vehicles.

So why catalytic converters? Their parts - including platinum and the precious metal rhodium - can cost up to $6,000 an ounce. Some speculate that thieves are emulating the scrap metal thieves that strip copper fixtures and wire from construction sites and warehouses in order to sell it for cash. The thefts have naturally upset many motorists. The converters themselves are extremely expensive to replace, costing upwards of $2,000. Even after the part has been fixed, what's to say that thieves won't strike again?

Parking lot security is, justifiably (and some officials say, finally), getting the attention it deserves. Surveillance cameras and stepped up security are appearing in parking lots everywhere - no longer protected by a security camera from a nearby store or the occasional pass-by of a security car. In this instance, video surveillance can be particularly helpful. Thieves have already been caught on tape by security cameras and news crews alike, and technology like IP video could help security target the thefts as they happen, stopping the problem at the source.

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