Catalytic converters contain metals that have increased in value in recent years, making them a prime target for thieves.
And in most cases, like a recent incident in Coquitlam's Austin Heights neighbourhood, it only takes less than a minute for someone to saw the part off a vehicle's undercarriage and run away.
On Jan. 15, a man was caught on security camera stealing a catalytic converter after detaching it from a vehicle at a home near the intersection of Rochester Avenue and Blue Mountain Street.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Alexa Hodgins said the suspect took off a minute after pulling up to the residence.
"Catalytic converter thefts can be done relatively quickly by thieves," she said in a release today (Feb. 1), adding that parking a vehicle in a way that's accessible from all angles make a thief's job easier.
"In order to deter thefts, Coquitlam RCMP is advising the public to park inside garages or underground parking lots when possible or in well-lit and -travelled areas."
The suspect fled the scene in a white Ford Expedition with unknown licence plates, and was wearing a black jacket and black track pants with a white stripe down the side.
By the numbers
The incident is one of an increased number of catalytic converter thefts reported to Coquitlam RCMP, Hodgins said.
According to ICBC's latest statistics, catalytic converter theft claims in Coquitlam grew to 113 in the first six months of 2022 from four in 2015.
Those thefts hit an all time high in 2021 — 181 in Coquitlam with payouts totalling nearly $300,000, and 1,953 thefts across the province.
With numbers increasing dramatically each year, the record will likely be broken again in 2023.
"We encourage the public to report suspicious activities, including persons seen loitering in parking lots or underneath vehicles," added Hodgins.
"Continued neighbourhood vigilance is key when it comes to preventing and helping police locate prolific property criminals."
Meanwhile, a similar rise in ICBC claims for theft of catalytic converters happened in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody:
- 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 = Five, claim value - $7,632
- 2021 = 15, claim value - $23,846
- 2022 (first six months) = Nine, claim value - $20,252
What you can do
While Mounties investigate the Jan. 15 theft, the local detachment is also encouraging local drivers to take every precaution necessary to prevent possible theft.
- Park in a secure garage, underground or behind a locked fence
- If this isn’t an option park in a well-lit and well-populated area
- Park your vehicle in a manner where it may be difficult to gain access under your car
- When possible park against a wall or close to other vehicles
- Install theft deterrents
- Wire cages, alarms and straps
- Speak with your mechanic regarding prevention measures
- Bolts can be welded and an identification number could be etched onto the car part making it more difficult for thieves to sell.
- Install theft prevention measures around your home
- Motion activated lighting, functional security cameras or trimming bushes and shrubs around vehicles to increase the street view of your vehicles
Coquitlam RCMP's property crime unit (PCT) and uniformed crime reduction unit (UCRU) have taken lead on all open reported catalytic converter theft investigations.
Anyone with more information on the Jan. 15 catalytic converter theft, or other related crimes, is encouraged to call Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 and quote file-number 2023-1347.
If you see a theft in progress, you're asked to call 911 right away.
- with files from Diane Strandberg, Tri-City News