A sharp increase in the number of catalytic converter thefts in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam has prompted a warning from the local Mounties.
Coquitlam RCMP said between August and November, 44 catalytic converters were reported stolen in its jurisdiction, which is a 335% increase compared to the same time period last year.
"Our investigators are working to get those numbers back down to their traditionally low levels but we need the public to take precautions and be our eyes and ears," Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin said in a press release.
Vehicle owners can take a number of steps to protect themselves, he said, including parking cars where there is good lighting and security cameras can work to deter thieves or keeping vehicles locked in garages overnight.
Residents should also be on alert for suspicious electrical tool noises and people under cars late at night or in isolated parking lots, he said, reporting any suspicious activity should be reported to police.
"Information from the public is key both for making immediate arrests and building crime activity maps," he added. "Security video can provide important evidence that connects one crime to another. Sometimes the smallest details can link and solve a series of crimes."
In July, a fire that damaged two vehicles in Port Coquitlam was believed to be started by thieves attempting to steal catalytic converters. Based on witness statements and video evidence, Mounties said they believe that sparks from some kind of cutting tool may have started the blaze, which spread from one vehicle to another.
Coquitlam RCMP said they were looking for four suspects who were seen leaving the scene on Riverside Drive in a dark, older-model sedan at around 3:30 a.m.
Anyone who sees a crime in progress should immediately call 911. To report a crime after it has occurred, call the Coquitlam RCMP's non-emergency line at 604-945-1550.