What are catalytic converters, and why are thefts of them increasing dramatically around the province?
A catalytic converter is a cylindrical or oval-shaped canister that comes pre-installed by the manufacturer of an automobile. As part of a car’s exhaust system, a catalytic converter converts many of a vehicle’s more harmful exhaust pollutants into less harmful emissions.
The catalytic converter also contains precious metals such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum. Someone might steal one for its resale value, but it’s more likely a thief will sell it to a recycling facility for those small amounts of valuable metals it contains. Due to rising prices for these metals, they are a target for thieves, who are also attracted to the fact that catalytic converters are relatively easy to access and lack identifying markings.
A thief will slide underneath a vehicle and use a cordless reciprocating saw or grinder. These tools are not overly large and can be concealed in a jacket or backpack. After a series of cuts are made, the catalytic converter is removed from the vehicle’s exhaust system. The entire process can be accomplished in about five minutes.
When the vehicle’s owner returns and starts their vehicle, they will hear unusual noises and louder than normal exhaust sounds. It’s also likely that the “check engine” light indicator will be illuminated on the dashboard.
A new catalytic converter costs between $100 and $200, but having one professionally installed will add hundreds of dollars to the bill.
According to ICBC, claims for such thefts have climbed from 89 in 2017 to more than 1,900 in 2021, with claim costs spiking from $356,950 to over $4 million.
In March 2021, the province announced new regulations to the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Regulations, in an attempt to deter these thefts. The new rules direct all metal dealers to report to police each transaction of a catalytic converter when not attached to the rest of the exhaust system, including information about the seller.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said at the time that the intention behind the amendment was to reduce anonymity when converters are sold, and thus reduces the incentive to steal them in the first place.
Here are some tips that can help reduce your chance of becoming a victim of catalytic converter theft:
– Listen for suspicious electrical tool noises and watch for people under cars, especially late at night or in isolated parking lots;
– Park your vehicles in well-lit areas in view of security cameras;
– If possible, use a locked garage or compound to park your vehicles overnight;
– Install good lighting and functional security cameras that you know how to use;
– Install a catalytic converter-specific security device, such as security cages, alarms, or specialized strapping, or have it welded to the vehicle frame; and
– Adjust the security system on your vehicle, if already installed, to activate from vibrations, such as those produced by electrical tools.
Business owners should consider securing their vehicles/fleet behind locked fencing or in secure compounds.
Call 9-1-1 if you think you see a crime in progress, and report all catalytic converter thefts (or attempted thefts) to the police as soon as possible.
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