Catalytic converter thefts present a challenge to police across Vancouver Island because of how quickly and simply the devices can be stolen from vehicles.
The emission-control devices, which reduce pollutants in exhaust, are an easy target for thieves and contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Thieves need only cut two ends of a pipe to remove the converter and can remain hidden underneath the car from passersby, especially easy at night.
Vehicles in low-traffic and low-visibility areas are at higher risk, including off-highway parking spots, said Sgt. Shane Worth of the Oceanside RCMP.
He mentioned the commuter parking spots along Memorial Avenue, between the highways in Qualicum Beach and the turnoff before Coombs Junction, further west down Memorial.
“We have seen some — fewer, but we have seen some in people’s driveways,” he said.
Vehicles of all type have been targeted, according to Worth.
His advice to avoid a theft is to, whenever possible, park in a well-lit, high-traffic area or garage, if available. Worth also suggested residents not leave a vehicle overnight if they can avoid it and to get into the habit of checking all locks and security measures nightly at 9 p.m.
A driver whose vehicle’s catalytic converter has been stolen will quickly realize once they turn the ignition, because of the much higher level of engine noise.
The provincial government recently amended the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Regulation (MDRR) to require metal dealers report each transaction, including information about the seller, to police on the day of sale.
“That doesn’t seem, in the last month or so, to have put a stop to our situation,” Worth said.
RCMP are working to determine who is accepting stolen catalytic converters and whether the devices are being recycled as a whole, or broken down into pieces first.
“If anybody has any information about catalytic converter thefts or knows who’s doing it, please call our office. We’d be happy to speak to you and have your information, so we can stop this from happening.”
ICBC claims for catalytic converter thefts in B.C. have climbed from 89 in 2017 to 1,953 (2021).
The claim costs for catalytic converters during the same time increased from $356,950 (2017) to $4,059,081 (2021).