Manitoba drivers have more than just icy roads to contend with this winter.
A disturbing trend of stolen catalytic converters — which convert pollutants from vehicle engines into less toxic emissions — is alive and well in the city, with data from Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) suggesting that SUVs have been targets of the most catalytic converter thefts over an 11-month period.
The owner of a Winnipeg autobody shop says that’s mainly a factor of the ease of removing them.
“It’s mostly accessibility,” Maxim Muffler’s Marco Palumbo told Global News.
“Vehicles that are higher off the ground are easier to get underneath and cut with a battery-operated tool, and remove the converter that they’re looking for.”
Palumbo said thieves are stealing converters due to a trio of elements — rhodium, palladium and platinum — that can be sold, even if the thieves themselves don’t have the know-how to extract the elements themselves.
“Unfortunately, it only takes two to three minutes with a new blade to cut off the converter, especially for those thieves that are a little more experienced and know where they are and how accessible they are,” Palumbo said.
“When they cut it off, they cut it off with zero care, so for us to install it, it takes a little bit of time, a little bit of finesse.”
According to MPI, the vehicles most at risk include, primarily, vehicles made outside of North America, with the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe, Kia Sportage, and Honda Element topping the list.
Winnipeg police data shows a massive increase in catalytic converter thefts, up by over 415 per cent since the previous year.
The owner of a St. Clements RV business told Global News he’s seen a rash of thefts
“People are breaking into the compound and stealing catalyrtic converters from the motor homes,” said Ed Stiling of Styling’s RV.
“They’ve just been coming in, cutting the fence and cutting the catalytic converter off.”
Stiling said there have been a number of thefts over the past year, most recently on Jan. 20.
“It’s been a bit of a problem,” he said. “They’re taking them from customers’ vehicles, also our rental vehicles as well, so it’s definitely affecting our business there.
“It does cost a bit, for sure. We’ve put extra lights up, cameras, always repairing the fence — I can’t even count on my hands how many times I’ve fixed the fence… it’s definitely affecting the business. People are scared to bring their units here for storage, and things of that nature.”
Stiling said attempts have been made to put extra steel under the motor homes to prevent converter theft, but so far it hasn’t been as effective as he would have liked — especially as many of the thefts have taken place overnight in the bitter cold.