Accused Victoria catalytic converter thieves charged as police renew warning

Click to play video: 'Catalytic converter thefts spike in parts of B.C.'
Catalytic converter thefts spike in parts of B.C.
WATCH: Police in at least two regions in B.C. say thefts of catalytic converters are spiking again. Jasmine Bala has the sobering numbers and the details on an innovative new program in other provinces aimed at combatting the crime wave – Jan 12, 2023

Victoria police say a nearly year-long investigation has led to charges against two men accused of stealing catalytic converters in the capital region.

Both men have been charged with trafficking in stolen property, according to VicPD.

Police wouldn’t answer additional questions about the case, saying it is now before the courts.

The charges come just a day after police in neighbouring Sidney and North Saanich issued a warning about a recent spike in catalytic converter thefts.

“We’ve seen a stark increase here in Sidney with between eight and 10 instances in the last three weeks,” Const. Andres Sanchez with Sidney North-Saanich RCMP said.

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“We typically don’t see any of this type of thefts or very few throughout the year if we do. So certainly when we do see a series of them happen consistently over a three-week span we do want to let the public know.”

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Delta police this week said they received a whopping 33 reports of stolen catalytic converters in the first 11 days of the month.

Catalytic converters are a part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that contain several precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be cut from the underside of a car or truck in minutes.

Click to play video: 'Renewed concerns about catalytic converter thefts'
Renewed concerns about catalytic converter thefts

Police say they can be fenced for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, while leaving vehicle owners and insurance companies on the hook for costly repairs.

The cost of catalytic converter theft claims to ICBC jumped form $350,000 in 2017 to more than $4 million in 2021, with the number of reports surging more than 2,000 per cent over the same period.

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The province introduced new regulations last year requiring  metal recyclers to track and record all catalytic converter purchases, but the changes appear not to have deterred opportunistic thieves.

The surge has officials looking at a program recently launched in Calgary, where Kal-Tire has begun engraving vehicles’ VIN numbers on the part so that they can be tracked if sold.

That program has yet to come to B.C., and would require a partnership with police. But Gord Buerk, manager of the Coquitlam Kal-Tire said there is interest in replicating the concept here.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook, we’ve heard it has been very successful in Calgary already,” he said.

“Customers are getting sticker on your window as well, showing potential thieves the catalytic converter has been marked to be identified at a scrap sale place to make sure thieves see that before they even get under a vehicle.”

In the meantime, police are urging vehicle owners to take precautions, including parking in well-lit places or garages or secured areas if possible.

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