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Theft of catalytic converters ongoing in Trail area

Latest theft reported from ‘for sale’ lot along Highway 22 near Oasis
Catalytic converters contain valuable and rare materials such as platinum and rhodium, making them a target for theft. Photo: Mission RCMP

Trail police are warning vehicle owners not to leave their for-sale cars and trucks parked along Highway 22 near Oasis after the theft of a catalytic converter from a 2013 Nissan crossover.

“The vehicle had been parked at the popular location as it was advertised for sale,” Sgt.Mike Wicentowich advises.

“Catalytic converters and items inside vehicles are currently the target of thieves operating in the area,” Wicentowich adds. “Please take precautions to avoid becoming a victim.”

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is an essential part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, reducing the airborne pollutants. Catalytic converters are known to reduce about 90 per cent of harmful toxins and emissions that are expelled into the air, including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. It is a canister with two pipes connected to the exhaust, located underneath the vehicle, and accessible by lying beneath it.

“You should notice that you are victim of this kind of theft, as your vehicle’s engine will give off a loud roaring noise,” police advise.

Notably, electric vehicles do not have catalytic converters.

Why are thieves targeting catalytic converters?

Ironically enough, it isn’t the catalytic converters themselves that are valuable, but the precious metals inside them that are. These types of valuable metals include palladium, rhodium and platinum. As the value of these precious metals have risen, so have the thefts. The intention, of course, is to sell them on the black market for a quick buck.

To prevent falling victim to this kind of theft, police advise: park in well-lit and well-travelled areas; keep your vehicle inside your garage; install a vehicle security system; install a catalytic converter anti-theft device; install a security system to monitor your vehicle.

Is a stolen catalytic converter covered by insurance?

If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, then you’re typically covered against catalytic converter theft, less deductible. Comprehensive coverage will typically pay to replace the stolen catalytic converter and repair any related damage from its removal.

In March 2022, the province made regulatory changes to strengthen measures that deter catalytic converter thefts across British Columbia.

An amendment made to the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Regulation (MDRR) regulates catalytic converters that are not attached to an exhaust system. This requires registered metal dealers to report each transaction, including information about the seller, to police on the day of sale.

“We are changing the rules to better fight thieves who steal catalytic converters,” Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said in the March 14 new release. “These thefts create costs and consequences to the livelihoods of British Columbians and this change reduces the incentive to steal them in the first place.”

Catalytic converters can be sold to metal dealers without providing information about the seller, allowing them to remain anonymous. The province says these updates to the MDRR, which were proposed by stakeholders such as the BC Association of Police Boards, support police in locating illicit sellers and stolen items, and disrupting the distribution of stolen items.

ICBC facts

ICBC claims for catalytic converter thefts in B.C. have climbed from 89 in 2017 to 158 (2018), 602 (2019), 1,065 (2020) and 1,953 (2021). ICBC claim costs for catalytic converters during the same time increased from $351,000 in 2017 to over $4 million in 2021.

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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