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'Huge issue,' Port Coquitlam seeks crackdown on scrap dealers who buy stolen catalytic converters

With theft of catalytic converters on the rise in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, politicians want public safety minster Mike Farnworth to pass laws regulating scrap dealers who buy the devices without checking if the materials are stolen
2019 Catalytic Converter Car Fire in Port Coquitlam
A fire that damaged two vehicles on the north side of Port Coquitlam in 2019 was likely caused by thieves attempting to steal catalytic converters, according to the Coquitlam RCMP.

Port Coquitlam will be seeking changes to provincial legislation to make it tougher for thieves to sell expensive catalytic converters snatched from cars in the city.

The equipment used to reduce harmful emissions is popular to steal and sell to scrap metal dealers because of the valuable metals inside.

Catalytic converters are worth at least $1,400 at scrap metal dealers and because there is no legislation cracking down on these items it’s difficult to stop re-resale of these stolen items other than catching a thief red-handed, council was told.

“It’s a huge issue outside shops,” said Coun. Dean Washington.

Police started noticing a rise in catalytic converter thefts in 2019 when 44 were stolen between August and November 2019, a 335% increase over the previous year.

And in July, 2019, a fire damaged two vehicles when thieves attempted to steal the device from a parked car in Port Coquitlam. 

Thefts of catalytic converters from cars continued to be a problem through 2020, when other crimes in the city were down.

City council wants to look at ways to stop scrap dealers from accepting stolen catalytic converters, similar to the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Regulation that puts conditions on the purchase of metals, such as scrap from street lighting poles, wiring and fixtures and other materials.

The law attempts to deter and track metal theft and increase the accountability of dealers and sellers.

But with catalytic converters not part of the legislation, Port Coquitlam is hoping public safety minister Mike Farnworth will tackle the problem with a new law.

Councillors were told that catalytic converters are not part of the scrap metal dealers legislation and the problem is not just regional — other countries such as the U.S., Australia and the U.K. are dealing with catalytic converter theft on a huge scale.

Superintendent Keith Bramhill said Coquitlam RCMP is dealing with the issue by monitoring thefts and targeting prolific offenders.

“We have strategies that we’re working on [such as getting] real time information. Certainly catalytic convertor thefts are a concern for us in Port Coquitlam and in Coquitlam and we’re working hard on some prolific offenders around that right now,” Supt. Bramhill said.

Council will now send a letter to Farnworth, who is also a Port Coquitlam MLA, to ask for tougher legislation to stop scrap metal dealers from accepting stolen catalytic converters.

The issue came up as Supt. Bramhill gave council an update on 2020 crime statistics.

Port Coquitlam council was told that crime was down last year due to COVID-19 restrictions keeping people close to home and police crime-fighting initiatives.

In 2020, there were 12,046 calls for service, down from 13,508 in 2017.