Huge uptick in catalytic converter thefts in Coquitlam as the value of precious metals rise

Thieves are targeting catalytic converters because they are easy to steal and worth a lot of money.

Thieves with blowtorches and cutting tools are making lives miserable and inconvenient for Tri-City residents whose catalytic converters are being stolen for the valuable metals inside.

According to Coquitlam RCMP, as many as 23 catalytic converter thefts were reported in August in the cities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam.

That’s a huge uptick from six in August 2020.

And media spokesperson Const. Deanna Law suspects the growing value of the precious metals — rhodium, palladium and platinum — is the reason why.

“The car part is targeted for the precious metals contained inside,” Law stated in a press release. “The price of these metals has significantly increased over the years resulting in an increase in theft.”

That means dozens of people are losing their work and leisure time to get an ICBC claim and take their car in for repairs.

The rash of thefts is being investigated by the Coquitlam RCMP Property Crime Unit (PCT) and Uniformed Crime Reduction Unit (UCRU), and Law said police need the public’s help and should report suspicious activity and thefts immediately.

Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that were first used in the mid-1970s; they are necessary to make car exhaust from internal combustion engines less toxic.

A Surrey woman shot video of two men stealing a catalytic converter from her vehicle. The video reported on Global News showed the woman saying “excuse me” to the pair before they snatched up the equipment, got into their black sedan and sped away.

Coquitlam RCMP's Law said the thieves are becoming increasingly brazen, as the duo was likely driving a stolen car.

According to JD Power, a global data and analytics company, platinum contained in the auto part is worth more than $1,100 per ounce, while palladium costs more than $2,000 per per ounce.

Rhodium, meanwhile, can cost between $10,000 to over $21,000 per ounce.

Typically thieves get about $200 for each catalytic converter they bring in.

And the theft of the exhaust emission devices has led to hundreds of insurance claims to ICBC.

ICBC statistics for the Lower Mainland show claim costs of $1.9 million for 2020, with the average claim at $2,117.

The persistent crime has prompted the Vancouver Police Board to call on the B.C. government to amend the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act to put the onus on scrap dealers to collect identification from sellers.

Port Coquitlam has also asked the B.C. government for laws to crackdown on catalytic converter thefts.

Thieves often target vehicles with high-ground clearance such as minivans and SUVs to allow easier access to the underside of a vehicle. Trucks are also targeted by thieves.

Coquitlam RCMP offer the following tips to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen:

  • Install good lighting and functional security cameras that you know how to use
  • Park your vehicles in well-lit areas in view of security cameras
  • Use, if possible, a locked garage or compound to park your vehicles overnight
  • Watch for suspicious electrical tool noises and people under cars — especially late at night or in isolated parking lots
  • Call 911 if you think you see a crime in progress
  • Report all catalytic converter theft (or attempted theft) to the police via 911 as soon as possible

To report a crime after the fact, call the Coquitlam RCMP non-emergency line at 604-945-1550.

— with files from Mike Howell, Business In Vancouver

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