Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise across Canada, with law enforcement and the insurance industry bodies all ringing the alarm bell.
Reports from Calgary, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Montreal, and Waterloo and other centres all point to a significant increase in the illicit activity.
In March, Waterloo regional police say a suspect cut a hole in a fence to gain access to work vehicles that were in a compound, then cut off the converters. Officers were able to locate the converters nearby and they were returned to the business owner, police said.
In most cases, the converters are not recovered.
Police in Vancouver received 71 reports of catalytic converter thefts between Jan. 1 and March 6, more than double the 33 reports received over the same time in 2020.
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia says thefts have risen “1000%.”
As of the end of March, Saskatoon Police, had already been 16 reports of stolen catalytic converters in the city in 2021, compared to only six in all of 2020 and four in all of 2019. Saskatchewan General Insurance reports that it had received 38 claims for catalytic converter theft so far in 2021, compared to 32 in all of 2020.
Windsor police nabbed three suspected thieves in March after a rash of thefts put them on the trail in January.
And in Calgary, police report that they are getting about six reports a day. Up from 2020, when there were approximately 300 catalytic converter thefts reported, which was up from 205 reported thefts in 2019.
The key driving force behind the organized theft rings is the rising price of the platinum, palladium and rhodium used in catalytic converters.
“We’re seeing coast to coast in Canada as well as into the United States and in other parts of the world,” Bryan Gast, National Director of Investigation Services at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, told Global News in an interview in March.
“The theft of catalytic converters is by no means something new to law enforcement, or anybody across Canada or into the United States. What’s really prompted the increase in these thefts is the precious metals, and the values of those precious metals, which are contained in the catalytic converters.”
The issue has become so concerning that Alberta brought in new regulations to require the scrap metal industry to collect a standardized set of information, and to share information with police. It also created an intelligence unit to track catalytic converter and other scrap metal thefts.
Other jurisdictions also have controls in place to help interrupt scrap metal theft rings.
And while certainly any business should be on the lookout for individuals trying to sell suspected stolen goods, automotive service providers should also take reasonable steps to ensure that vehicles in their care are secured either inside or in a secure compound to help minimize the risk from would-be thieves.