Edmonton police are warning drivers about an increase in catalytic converter thefts in the city.
The number of catalytic converter thefts in Edmonton so far this year has already surpassed last year’s total.
In all of 2020, 1,626 thefts of the exhaust emission control devices were reported to the Edmonton Police Service. As of Aug. 31, the total for 2021 stood at 1,701.
“The theft of catalytic converters continues to be an ongoing issue across our city,” EPS Det. Daniel Leach said in a news release Monday morning.
“It’s a crime of opportunity, and one that isn’t easy for citizens to protect themselves against.”
The precious metals found in catalytic converters are valuable to scrap metal dealers and recyclers. Leach said criminals often steal the converters and exchange them to “middle men” for drugs or money.
The repairs associated with replacing catalytic converters is costing Edmontonians and their insurance companies millions of dollars every year, Leach added.
Police say the thefts are happening right across the city.
“Your vehicle can be a target for thieves almost anywhere you park,” Leach said.
Diane Ellendt is the director of Millcreek’s Finest Child Care Centre. Over the last year she’s had her company vehicle’s catalytic converter stolen not once, but twice.
“It’s annoying. It’s incredibly annoying and frustrating,” she said Monday. “I don’t think we’re being targeted because even my mechanic said these things are being stolen right in front of people’s homes, right in front of their businesses and at all times of the day as well.”
The most recent theft happened about two weeks ago. Staff members went to start the vehicle to drive the children to school and they knew something was wrong.
“It sounds like the motor is running really hard. There’s a lot of noise coming from — it sounds like from the motor — but when you look underneath, the muffler is not connected to anything,” she said.
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“There was just two pipes hanging there. That was it. There was nothing connecting the pipes together… They were sawed off completely. Nice sawed-off ends.”
Because the cost of the insurance deductible is higher than the price to replace the converter, the child care centre shelled out the $1,500 to replace the part. Ellendt said the financial hit is especially difficult right now.
“It’s a financial factor that we really don’t need in this time of COVID when those funds that have to replace the catalytic converter, those funds could have been used for something else,” she said.
“It does cause hardship for the parents, especially the ones who are relying on the pickups and we’re lucky that the weather right now is nice, but should this happen in the wintertime when it’s -40, that’ll cause us some difficulties.”
The centre is doing what it can to protect itself, including installing cameras. Staff park the vehicle on the street in hopes the neighbours will look out for each other.
The EPS offers the following tips to drivers to protect themselves against theft:
- When possible, avoid parking your vehicle in a place where thieves can discreetly crawl underneath and remove the converter. An experienced thief needs only five-10 minutes to cut off and steal a converter
- Engrave it with your VIN (vehicle identification number) so it’s easier to identify as stolen property
- Have the converter welded to your vehicle, making it difficult to remove
- Spend a few hundred dollars for a special clamp or cage that will make removal far more difficult, discouraging a thief
- Invest in a car alarm that is sensitive to the vibration of a catalytic converter being sawed off
In an attempt to make it more difficult for thieves to sell stolen metal for scrap, provisions of the Protecting Alberta Industry from Theft Act were implemented in November 2020.
Police say now, all scrap metal dealers and recyclers must report transactions involving certain types of metal, including copper wire and catalytic converters. Payments for these types of transactions must also be made with traceable forms of currency, not cash.
Police hope the legislation will help curb the sale of stolen catalytic converters.