Lisa Lasby has been getting a lot of advice since she woke up Sunday morning with a noisy car.
In the dead of night, someone stole the catalytic converter off her 2010 Hyundai Tuscon, upsetting a busy day of chores and errands for herself and her family.
Now she's stuck dealing with ICBC, repair shops and a rental car dealer — and she may have to contribute to some of the costs above her $300 deductible because of depreciation.
She's worried she might have to pay as much as $1,000 or 50 per cent for a new catalytic converter unless a second-hand one can be found, which takes time.
"That wasn’t something I was expecting," Lasby said. "It's super inconvenient."
The Coquitlam resident, who lives near Como Lake Village, was one of at least four Coquitlam residents who had their catalytic converter stolen over the weekend, according to reports on the Coquitlam Community Facebook page.
Huge jump in catalytic converter theft
There appears to be no end in sight to the frustrating problem.
According to ICBC figures, the number of catalytic converter theft claims in Coquitlam grew from four in 2015 to 113 in the first six months of 2022.
In 2021, cat thefts hit an all time high of 181 in Coquitlam, with ICBC payouts totalling nearly $300,000.
With numbers increasing dramatically each year, the record will likely be broken again in 2023.
Meanwhile, a similar rise in ICBC claims for theft of catalytic converters happened in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody (see numbers below).
The problem is so great, residents are starting to take matters into their own hands.
"I've been told to contact my MLA," said Lasby, who would like to see more rules in place to stop scrap dealers from accepting the valuable car part.
New laws are in place to limited affect
One idea is to get a car's VIN number scratched on to the catalytic converter for easier tracking while in Leduc, Alberta, anyone without a permit who has an unattached catalytic converter could be fined $1,000.
Catalytic converters control exhaust emissions to reduce pollutants, but they have been a target for thieves because of an increase in the price of metals they contain.
Last spring, the BC government changed the regulations for metal dealers and recyclers to require them to report each transaction, including seller information, to police.
However, a mechanic who owns a repair shop in the Tri-Cities, and asked that his name not be used for security reasons, says catalytic converters are more likely being shipped directly out of the Port of Vancouver to China.
Are catalytic converter thefts tied to gangs?
"It's a gang problem," he said, likening the issue to past money laundering troubles in B.C. casinos, and wants more enforcement of outgoing shipments.
His shop is not an ICBC-designated vendor, but he often gets calls from people who need a solution right away so they can drive their vehicles.
In some cases, he simply puts in a straight pipe, which makes the car noisy, until the part comes in and the vehicle can be completely repaired.
He dealt with one woman who was about to be married and needed the use of her 2018 Mitsubishi so he was able to arrange for the part, and covered the cost himself for more than two months, until ICBC paid the woman back.
In the woman's case, she wasn't allowed to put an after market catalytic converter into her car, which added to costs and delays.
"It's disgusting how this is being handled," the shop owner said.
Do ICBC claims take a long time for catalytic converter replacement?
ICBC maintains that claims are not routinely delayed; however, processing time can depend on the availability of parts.
"Typically, a customer can expect to have the work completed and the claim paid within a few weeks of reporting the claim," stated media spokesperson Greg Harper in an email.
Coquitlam RCMP has also reported on the problem, noting in 2021 a bump in the number of catalytic converter thefts.
On the RCMP website, a number of tips on preventing catalytic converter thefts are provided, including how to park to make it difficult to get access to your car.
Lasby said she learned her lesson about parking safely.
She told The Tri-City News that her Tuscon is usually tucked into the carport, but for various reasons, was left in the middle of the driveway where the thief was able to get under the vehicle and make the cut, snatch the car part, in just 30 seconds.
"I should have put it up on blocks — that would have made it even easier," she says dryly.
Here are the Tri-City catalytic converter thefts for 2020–2022:
- 2020 = 73, claim value - $155,809
- 2021 = 181, claim value - $298,394
- 2022 (first six months) = 113, claim value - $269,501
- 2020 = 26, claim value - $48,680
- 2021 = 65, claim value - $166,778
- 2022 (first six months) = 42, claim value - $102,457
- 2020 = 5, claim value - $7,632
- 2021 = 15, claim value - $23,846
- 2022 (first six months) = Nine, claim value - $20,252