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Calgary changes bylaw to clamp down on illicit catalytic converter sales

A pile of catalytic converters are pictured in a Calgary warehouse on Feb. 2, 2016. Jill Croteau / Global News

The City of Calgary is using a new tactic to try to clamp down on catalytic converter thefts.

On Tuesday, city council voted unanimously to change the Business Licence Bylaw to ensure catalytic converters can only change hands from legitimate buyers and sellers.

Salvage collectors, auto wreckers and salvage yards will have to keep a record of the seller’s details, buyer’s details and details of the car the catalytic converter came from, like vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model and year. Businesses will have to keep the sales records for one year.

The bylaw prohibits buyers from purchasing catalytic converters without all of that information. Purchasers are also not allowed to remove existing identifying markers before or at the time of the sale.

Click to play video: 'Council to beef up fines in response to catalytic converter thefts in Calgary'
Council to beef up fines in response to catalytic converter thefts in Calgary

Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong said other municipalities in Alberta like Leduc are implementing bylaws to address thefts of an auto part can contain valuable precious materials like platinum.

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“I’m still trying to figure out how to get the province and or the federal government involved because it would be such a much simpler idea to have these things stamped as they’re sold, as opposed to having to try and catch people after the fact,” Demong said. “This bylaw by itself is an excellent step forward.”

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The bylaw change comes after catalytic converter thefts have seen year-over-year increases.

In 2021, 1,560 thefts were reported, which more than doubled to 3,439 the next year. This is on pace to break that previous high, with 994 reported thefts in the first quarter of 2023.

“The Calgary Police Service is looking at several initiatives to help deter and prevent theft of catalytic converters and hold those who are committing these thefts accountable,” CPS deputy chief Chad Tawfik said in a statement. “We are pleased to see initiatives like updates to the business bylaw that will make it easier to track the sale of catalytic converters to salvage collectors, auto wreckers and salvage yards, and make it more difficult for people to anonymously sell them and profit from the thefts.”

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The city is sending salvage yard businesses information and training material to make sure they are in compliance with the changed bylaw. While there is no official grace period for those businesses, the city said it will work with those shops to help them adopt the new requirements.

The same requirements for motor vehicle repair, service and auto body shops that sell used auto parts come into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and will need to add a “salvage collector licence category” to their business licence at the time of renewal.

Earlier this year, CPS partnered up with auto repair shop chain Kal Tire to offer engraving of VINs into catalytic converters, allowing them to be tracked via police databases if stolen.

Demong said he’d like to see the precious parts tagged with VINs earlier in the ownership process.

“They do that on the engines. Not really sure why we couldn’t just as easily do it on the catalytic converters, whether it gets done at the dealership, whether it gets done at the automaker,” he said.

Fines for breaking the bylaw can run up to $3000 per offence under the newly-amended bylaw.

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